Why Don’t We Talk More About Male Circumcision When We Talk About HIV Prevention?

The new issue of Population Services International’s quarterly magazine IMPACT features an article about efforts to bridge the divide between traditional and medical male circumcision as a way to combat HIV/AIDS.

“It looked like a scene from a mosque in the middle of Cairo,” said Roy Dhlamini, the male circumcision (MC) manager of PSI/Zimbabwe. Dhlamini had just returned from PSI’s New Start HIV testing and counseling (HTC) center in Harare, where the Muslim community had gathered to participate in the country’s male circumcision for HIV prevention campaign.

Zimbabwe embarked on a campaign of MC for HIV prevention in May 2009. With support from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW), more than 12,000 males have since been circumcised in the country’s five pilot sites. Among them were men and boys from Zimbabwe’s traditionally circumcising communities.

While relatively small, some communities in Zimbabwe still practice traditional MC for cultural or religious reasons. The Muslims and Changaani are the largest of these communities. To ensure that HIV prevention information was disseminated, and to prevent the adverse events – some of them fatal – that occur during traditional circumcisions each year, the national MC campaign reached out to traditional circumcising communities.


In a country like Zimbabwe, with high prevalence of HIV and low prevalence of MC [Male Circumcision], wide coverage of male circumcision could significantly reduce the HIV epidemic. Zimbabwe currently has an HIV prevalence of 13.7 percent and only 10 percent prevalence of MC. Mathematical modeling done by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Futures Group shows that with 80 percent coverage of MC in Zimbabwe by 2015, nearly 40 percent of new infections among adults could be averted by 2025. The report also suggests that for every seven male circumcisions performed, one new HIV infection would be prevented.

You really don’t hear too much about circumcision as a way to combat HIV/AIDS. But it seems to be a cost effective and culturally sensitive way to make inroads in the global fight against against HIV/AIDS.  And judging by these statistics — it works!

That’s just one article of several interesting pieces from IMPACT.  Check out interviews with the economists Paul Collier and Nancy Birdsall, and with three of The Elders:  Mary Robinson, Jimmy Carter, and Gro Bruntland.  And don’t miss this cool info-graphic showing how the advent of insecticide treated anti-malaria bednets in 2003 revolutionized the fight against malaria. (Of course, our pals at Nothing But Nets get a shout out.)

Have a read!