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AIDS: What Role Does Male Circumcision Play?

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How to Fight?

The Red Cross adds that “the situation is slowly overwhelming Southern Africa and the longer-term projections are startling.” Such a grim prognosis on prospects for the region suggests that any new weapon in fighting HIV-AIDS would be more than welcome.

The Gaborone-based Botswana Harvard Aids Institute for HIV Research and Education says that if supported by clinical trials, male circumcision might be an acceptable method of preventing HIV transmission among adults and adolescents.

The institute has gone on to assess the acceptability of circumcision among adults and children through a cross-sectional survey at nine geographically representative locations in Botswana. Results show more acceptance of the practice if it’s for free in a hospital setting.

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Among those who believe the virtues of male circumcision is important comes Dr. Mariam Esat, an infectious disease specialist based in Zimbabwe. She says part of the reason why there is a dearth of publicity on the perceived benefits of male circumcision is that “medical insurance (in Zimbabwe) doesn’t pay for it, certainly not adult circumcisions and not as a prophylactic against HIV.”

The Dean of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Zimbabwe, Professor Ahmed Latif, says scientific evidence does prove that circumcision in children allows the skin to keratinize (harden) like the back of the hand, thereby affording a great deal of protection against infections.

On the other hand, he says, the inner surface of the foreskin has mucosal membrane. This gives it a very large area of contact because of its folding. “We are very aware of the association between HIV and circumcision, but we are waiting for further confirmatory data,” Professor Latif says. “We know but we need to see more long-term studies.

“There is a link between alcohol and HIV infections. Thus, we should tackle this. But everything takes place slowly,” says Professor Latif.

Much like most things pertaining to HIV-AIDS, the link between the virus and male circumcision is still inconclusive.

References:

  • com. “Women & the HIV/AIDS Epidemic.”Womens’ Issues-3rd World. 07/10/01.
  • Caldwell, John & Pat. “The African AIDS Epidemic.” Scientific America 274: 3 (1996) 40-46.
  • Clinton, Hilary, R. “Moroccan Women’s’ Roundtable Discussion.”S. Department of State Information. March 1999.
  • Naqvi, Siki. ‘Ali, M. “A Manual of Islamic Beliefs and Practice.” The Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain & N. Ireland. 1991.
  • Persaud, T. and Ahmed Mustafa, A. “Islamic Rules for Male Circumcision.”The First International Conference for the Scientific Aspects of the Qur’an and Sunnah in Islamabad, Pakistan. Islamzine.com. 08/14/01.
  • Reuters Health. “Surgeon General Calls for Open National Dialog on Sexuality.” Reuters Medical News. 06/28/01.
  • Reuters Health. “Drug Resistant HIV Spreading in UK.” Reuters Medical News. 04/12/01.
  • “South African Bishops Condemn Condoms as ‘Immoral and Misguided.” Religious News Service. 07/30/01. Beliefnet.com 08/06/01.
  • Shillinger, Kurt. “Male Circumcision Cited for Differing HIV Rates Among Africans.”org 05/11/99. 1-3.
  • Szabo, Robert. “How Does Male Circumcision Protect Against HIV Infection.”British Medical Journal. 06/10/00.
  • UNAIDS press release. Lusaka, 14 September 1999. “New research links dramatic HIV rates in girls to older partners”
  • University of California, Center for HIV Information. “Viewpoint: Male Circumcision and HIV Infection: 10 Years and Counting.” Daniel T Halperin, Robert C Bailey. The Lancet, 354 (9192): pp. 1813-15.
  • Health System Trust. Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report 5/7/00 . Male circumcision – a defense against HIV?
  • Kurt Shillinger, Boston Globe Correspondent, 11/05/99, Male Circumcision Cited For Differing HIV Rates Among Africans.
  • The Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership. Male circumcision: an acceptable strategy for HIV prevention in Botswana. P Kebaabetswe, S Lockman, S Mogwe, R Mandevu, I Thior, M Essex and R L Shapiro.
Editor’s Note: This article is from our archive, originally published on an earlier date, and now republished for its importance.

 

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