Africa Asia Middle East عربي Français Português Subscribe IRIN Site Map
Global HIV/AIDS news and analysis
Advanced search
 Monday 25 August 2008
Weekly reports 
In-Depth reports 
Country profiles 
Fact files 
Most read 
Really Simple Syndication Feeds 
About PlusNews 
Contact PlusNews 
Print report
GLOBAL: Male circumcision - a gamble for women?

Photo: Juda Ngwenya/PlusNews
Whether women's HIV risk will be lowered by male circumcision programmes is not certain
MEXICO CITY, 8 August 2008 (PlusNews) - While researchers and advocates at the International AIDS Conference this week urged donors and governments to rapidly scale up male circumcision programmes, others raised concerns about what this would mean for women.

In March 2007, the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS issued recommendations that gave the green light to male circumcision as an HIV prevention strategy, after studies in Kisumu, Kenya and the township of Orange Farm in South Africa showed that it could reduce the risk of infection by up to 60 percent.

But the recommendations also stressed that not enough is known about whether male circumcision reduces sexual transmission of HIV from men to women, making the intervention "highly problematic" according to Marge Berer, editor of the London-based journal Reproductive Health Matters. "From a public health perspective, we are told that 60 percent protection [for circumcised men] is far better than nothing. But is male circumcision good enough for women?" she wondered.

A study of almost 3,000 men between the ages of 18 and 24 in Kenya, compared sexual function between circumcised and uncircumcised men, assessing sexual satisfaction over a two-year period. The researchers found that the circumcised group had no higher rates of sexual dysfunction than the uncircumcised men.

According to John Krieger of the University of Washington, Seattle the men that had been circumcised reported more sexual pleasure post-circumcision, and that they found condoms easier to use.

''No one is going to pull out the red carpet for women's involvement in male is up to women to stop being victims ''
In addition, new results from a male circumcision initiative implemented by Population Services International in Zambia suggest that cultural resistance may not pose as serious a barrier as previously thought, and that it is possible to do the procedures safely and effectively in poor settings, using nurses and clinical officers.

Delegates heard that circumcision also lowers the risk of men getting the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes genital warts, and trichomoniasis, another common sexually transmitted disease.

What about women?

"All I'm hearing [at the conference] is about what it will do for men, the sexual satisfaction of men...but what about the women? What is their involvement?" commented Siphiwe Hlope, a founder of Swazis for Positive Living (SWAPOL), an AIDS support organisation.

Nicolai Lohse a research officer at UNAIDS said mathematical modelling showed women would benefit from male circumcision as long as it did not result in condom use dropping by more than two-thirds. Women's risk of acquiring HIV would also be reduced if circumcision programmes led to fewer HIV-positive men in the population. The risk to women of HIV acquisition would decline by 2 percent if only 5 percent of men were circumcised, and by 20 percent if half the men in a population were circumcised.

While Berer told delegates on Thursday that the potential benefits of male circumcision were "too large a gamble" for women, many countries in Southern Africa are already in the process of developing national policies on the procedure.

Read more:
 Mass male circumcision - what will it mean for women?
 SWAZILAND: Circumcision gives men excuse not to wear condoms
 KENYA: The cutting edge (multimedia)
"We have to support these programmes, I don't think we have a choice. But one would really argue that these programmes have a responsibility to women," Berer told IRIN/PlusNews.

She called for campaigns expanding male circumcision to involve couples and not to focus solely on men. Women health advocates also had a role to play in drafting national policies. "No one is going to pull out the red carpet for women's involvement in male circumcision is up to women to stop being victims," Berer added.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Gender Issues, (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), (IRIN) Prevention - PlusNews


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Print report
FREE Subscriptions
Your e-mail address:

Submit your request
 More on AFRICA
GLOBAL: IRIN/PlusNews Weekly Issue 401, 22 August 2008
AFRICA: Many children still miss out on treatment
AFRICA: Donor AIDS money weakening health systems
GLOBAL: IRIN/PlusNews Weekly Issue 400, 15 August 2008
GLOBAL: High food prices put pressure on HIV programmes
 More on Gender Issues
NIGERIA: Sex, trucks and HIV
GLOBAL: The female condom - the step-child in HIV prevention
MALAWI: High hopes for female condom
KENYA: PMTCT services not reaching rural women
UGANDA: “Today you will understand” – Women’s war stories from northern Uganda: an IRIN booklet and audio CD
Back | Home page

Services:  Africa | Asia | Middle East | Radio | Film & TV | Photo | E-mail subscription
Feedback · E-mail Webmaster · IRIN Terms & Conditions · Really Simple Syndication News Feeds · About PlusNews · Bookmark PlusNews · Donors

Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.