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Human Rights Group Calls Upon UNAIDS and the World Health Organization to Tell the Truth: Circumcision Does Not Prevent HIV

Intact America urges policy makers to halt male circumcision rollout, calling the plan exorbitant, dangerous, and unethical.
Georganne Chapin, Intact America

The human rights group Intact America(IA) is exhibiting at the IAS 2011 conference in Rome, Italy, July 17-20, urging policy makers to halt male circumcision rollout, calling the plan exorbitant, dangerous and unethical.

“The promotion of male circumcision sends the wrong message, creates a false sense of protection, and places women at greater risk for HIV. Men are already lining up to be circumcised in the belief that they no longer need to use condoms,” said Georganne Chapin, Director of IA. “It is troubling that scarce resources would be squandered on this dubious prevention strategy when new research shows that the use of antiretrovirals (ART) reduces transmission by 92%. Our resources need to be devoted to ARTS, plus education, condom programs and vaccines.”

New studies released since three highly-publicized randomized clinical trials (RCTs) on HIV and circumcision show that RCT results are not applicable to the general population of sub-Saharan Africa or any other region. A 2008 study concluded that male circumcision is not associated with reduced HIV infection rates in the general sub-Saharan population. Another recent study analyzed circumcision rates and HIV incidence in South Africa, finding that “Circumcision had no protective effect on HIV transmission.”

“The RCTs are questionable. The only conclusion that can be safely drawn from them is that circumcision might delay somewhat the transmission of HIV.” Chapin continued, “A 2008 study found that condom promotion is 95 times more cost-effective than male circumcision in preventing new sexually-transmitted HIV infections.”

“Especially troubling is the extraordinarily high rate of complications from male circumcision in Africa,” Chapin added. “A 2008 WHO bulletin reported an alarming 35% complication rate for traditional circumcisions and an 18% complication rate for clinical circumcisions. Africa’s overburdened health care system cannot handle the tens of thousands of complications that would result from these campaigns, nor should men and boys have to accept such a high level of risk for a procedure that cannot deliver on its promises.”

“We believe it is unethical for circumcisions to be carried out on adult males unless fully informed consent has been obtained,” said Chapin. “The number of reports of African males agreeing to circumcision so that they no longer need to use condoms reveals that they are consenting to the surgery without knowing all the facts. The world is desperate for a “silver bullet” to end the HIV epidemic, but male circumcision is not the answer.”

Of particular ethical concern is the recent push for infant circumcision to prevent HIV. Neonatal circumcision destroys erogenous tissue and places newborns at immediate risk of infection, hemorrhage, penile damage, and even death.

This is the third year that Intact America is attending the international AIDS conference. The organization also was instrumental in forcing the America Academy of Pediatrics to retract its proposal to re-introduce female genital cutting in the United States last year.

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