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UGANDA: New research shows support for medical male circumcision

The government has been slow to include circumcision in its prevention plan
Kampala, 2 February 2009 (PlusNews) - Most men and women in Uganda support medical male circumcision as a way of lowering HIV risk, and up to 62 percent of uncircumcised men would consider being circumcised, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by Uganda's Makerere University and Family Health International, which works to promote reproductive health, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development, surveyed 1,675 men and women in four districts; the results were released in the capital, Kampala, in December 2008.

Support for circumcising sons was even greater: almost 100 percent of circumcised men supported the circumcision of their male children, while 59 percent to 77 percent of uncircumcised men were in favour of having their sons circumcised, and between 49 percent and 95 percent of women wanted the procedure performed on their male children.

"The purpose of the research was to find out what is on the ground regarding the capacity to conduct medical male circumcision, and its acceptability among the public," said Dr Alex Opio, assistant commissioner for national disease control. "It was also done to pave the way for developing a policy, because all policies need evidence."

Three randomised trials in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda in 2005 and 2006 found that circumcision could reduce the risk of HIV infection among men by up to 60 percent. The World Health Organisation recommends that male circumcision be recognised as an additional intervention to reduce the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men.

According to the Ministry of Health, about 25 percent of Ugandan men are circumcised. An average of 12 percent of male survey participants in three of the districts - Gulu in the north, Kumi in the east and Rukungiri in the southwest - had been circumcised, while 40 percent of respondents in Kampala, which has a sizeable Muslim population, were circumcised.

Some of the reasons given for supporting male circumcision were a lower risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, general hygiene, and the idea that a circumcised penis was more aesthetically and sexually pleasing.

"I hear women say that circumcised men satisfy them sexually, and you know that if there is no satisfaction in the house, then the woman might look for another man and get infected," said one of the respondents.

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Many respondents expressed a desire for more information about the procedure and its benefits, which health workers said indicated an urgent need for a widespread education campaign before implementing a national male circumcision policy.

Respondents also felt that for the policy to be successful, medical practitioners would need training, health facilities would have to be upgraded, and the procedure should be affordable.

Opio said male circumcision would be offered free-of-charge at government health facilities, and before the rollout began later this year the Ministry of Health would draw up a policy that included the technique or method to be used for circumcision, the level of health facility where the procedure could be carried out, and a regulatory framework.

The government has been slow to formalise the inclusion of circumcision in its prevention programmes, largely because of uncertainty about public reaction; senior figures like Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni have questioned the efficacy of the procedure in preventing HIV.


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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