National program in Botswana focuses on increasing male circumcision rate

Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all have launched national campaigns urging men to undergo circumcision to help reduce their risk of contracting or transmitting HIV infection, but "all the countries are lagging far behind their targets," Agence France-Presse reports in an article focusing on efforts in Botswana. A three-year-old campaign in Botswana, aimed at convincing 460,000 men to get circumcised, "has reached only seven percent of this figure," the news agency notes, adding, "Now the government has enlisted the help of top musicians and launched a new series of advertisements touting 'safe male circumcision' as a lifeline."

According to AFP, "Botswana has no tradition of circumcision, giving the government a tough sales pitch -- even for a procedure done with local anesthetic, taking only a few minutes and requiring only a few days recovery." The news service notes most men say they fear the pain of the procedure, that the recovery time will be long, and how it will affect their sex lives (Moyo, 5/14).

    http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


    1. Hugh Intactive Hugh Intactive New Zealand says:

      The men are right to fear that circumcision will adversely affect their sex lives, and the evidence that it will protect them against HIV is shaky. There is evidence it may increase the risk of transmitting HIV to women. "Safe male circumcision" is anything but "a lifeline".

    2. Ronald Goldman, Ph.D. Ronald Goldman, Ph.D. United States says:

      Many professionals have criticized the studies claiming that circumcision reduces HIV transmission. They have various flaws. The absolute rate of HIV transmission reduction is only 1.3%, not the claimed 60%. Authorities that cite the studies have other agendas including political and financial. Research shows that circumcision causes physical, sexual, and psychological harm. This harm is ignored by circumcision advocates. Other methods to prevent HIV transmission (e.g., condoms and sterilizing medical instruments) are much more effective, much cheaper, and much less invasive.

    3. David Llewellyn David Llewellyn United States says:

      It appears that Botswana men are smarter than those who push circumcision think.  Circumcision does indeed decrease sexual pleasure.  If it offers any protection from HIV at all, that protection is minimal. Having unprotected sex, circumcised or not, eventually leads to HIV infection if one has sex with an infected person. The only real protection is abstinence, being faithful, and condom use if one can't do the first two (ABC).  Telling men that circumcision is a "lifeline" is fraudulent and will only lead to men believing they are protected when they are not.  Frenchmen are not lining up to be circumcised.  Nor are men in other Western countries.  The circumcision rate in the U.S. is declining.  Why should Botswanans subject themselves to something so risky and needless?

    4. Tom Tobin Tom Tobin United States says:

      Circumcision is being hailed as the solution.  It doesn't even work.  There is no disease it prevents, or cures.
      If the incomplete African studies, which no country can replicate, are to be believed, circumcision prevents HIV transmission from women to men at between 36% and 60% or so.
      Condoms protect both partners from a host of diseases, including HIV, and they are 98% effective.  Which would you choose?  Removing half the skin of your genitalia, for 60% effectiveness at best, or staying whole, and using a condom?
      There are HIV vaccines which are being worked on, and are close to being a reality.  What if you had a circumcision, and the HIV vaccine was released next week?
      Circumcision is one of the silliest, most wasteful ideas anyone ever attempted to foist on Africans, in recent memory.  The very coercive feeling of the campaign should tell you something.  If it made sense, it would sell itself, without the heavy propaganda from the WHO and others.  No one says a circumcised man is safe without a condom.  We've buried nearly a million mostly circumcised men due to AIDS in the United States.  If you have to wear a condom to be safe, what is circumcision going to add?  The answer is, nothing.

    The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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