Male Circumcision: A Dangerous Mistake in the HIV Battle by Intact America
Mass male circumcision is being promoted as a method of curbing the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Stopping the spread of HIV requires using available resources strategically, and circumcision’s costs and harms are too significant to ignore. Mass circumcision campaigns will divert resources from proven prevention programs, result in a high number of complications, increase risk-compensation behaviors, and put women at higher risk for HIV.
Circumcision is an expensive and risky procedure that was shown to reduce risk by 50–60% for heterosexual males only in three highly controlled, short-term clinical trials. However, condom promotion and safe-sex education have already been shown to reduce infection rates more effectively for both males and females, at a lower cost. Furthermore, anti-retroviral drugs have shown a promising 92% reduction in HIV transmission.1
Adult males are vulnerable to the belief that circumcision offers them immunity from HIV,2raising ethical concerns about promoting adult male circumcision, and questions regarding the effectiveness of the intervention.
Some have proposed circumcising infants, but this, too, has ethical ramifications.3 Removing healthy tissue from children deprives them of their right to autonomy. Surgery of any kind places them at immediate risk from complications, while the HIV benefit, if any, is 15–20 years away.
Male circumcision does not protect women;4 in fact, it may increase their risk of contracting HIV.5 Further, circumcision does not protect men who have sex with men.6 7
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