Sunday, August 30, 2009

Circumcision as HIV Prevention? A reader tells the ugly truth.

On Friday I wrote about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) half-baked recommendation of circumcision as a method of HIV/AIDS prevention. I received a comment from a reader named Willie from South Africa, which I believe tells the real story of the insanity of the CDC's proposed plan. I am posting Willie's comments because they give a first person account or how our leaders can lull citizens into a false sense of security in matters of public health by proposing what can only be called insanity.

First, I want to clarify a couple of things. In 1989 The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a service of the U.S. Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, released the results of a study conducted in 37 African nations to determine if circumcision had an impact on HIV infection. Researchers chose the test sites based on what they believed was a low incidence of circumcision among Africans in those countries. The study was not able to prove cause and effect when it came to HIV infection in circumcised vs. uncircumcised men.

What the study did show was a gap of 0.5% to 4% in HIV infection between the two groups, with circumcised men being slightly less likely to test positive. I chose to use a figure of 1%, as that was the figure I had heard historically and it fell within the margin in the report. (My bad.) However, the the results still back my position that the proceedure is not an effective means of HIV prevention.

Here is what Willie had to say:

The truth is: Circumcision is common under the Black people of South Africa but not under the [Caucasians]. It is not a “Gay thing” under the Black South Africans, but a true heterosexual disease. Circumcised or not will not make any difference in South Africa. The fact is that most Africans are circumcised and the HIV rate among African men is the highest.
It is estimated that one of the
Townships (Xhosas) in the City where I live 95% of the people are HIV positive and circumcision is compulsory in the culture of the Xhosa people (as well as in most of the other tribes in South Africa). What worries me the most is an article in a Johannesburg News Paper, about a boy of 18 who went for a circumcision. “I’ve heard we must come and circumcise so that we cannot get sick,” he said. “My parents think it’s a good thing.” Maiko is one of about 100 men aged 15 and up who come to the center every day and briefly occupy one of seven curtained-off beds in a one-room surgery” (see article) The whole aspect about circumcision is scary. If the message is understood that HIV cannot be contracted if you are circumcised, the HIV rate in South Africa will increase considerably in the next few years. I think the best way to stop a lot of new cases is to educate students not to have sex until they are married. Otherwise to have protective sex if they cannot do without sex. My question is: Is this not only a moneymaking business? I was circumcised as a baby due to medical reasons but I would have preferred to not circumcise.
It's no secret that the people of Africa are suffering the devastation brought on by AIDS, with whole generations being wiped out and millions of children growing up HIV-infected and alone.

Why haven't we learned? U.S. infections are on the rise as new medications make HIV "manageable" for those who can afford them. More and more gay men are engaging in bare-backing because it feels better than with a condom or because they think AIDS is a thing of the past.

In the straight community, teenage pregnancy and STD's are increasing every year. I have news for you, Bristol Palin. If you can get knocked up, you can get HIV.

When it comes to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, don't believe the hype. Protect yourself and your partner. Use common sense and use a condom, every time.

Thank you Willie.
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