On the second day of the conference (as mentioned in an earlier post), we encountered a group of young Ugandan men who said they were researchers in the Rakai, Uganda, circumcision RCT. The self-assured, self-appointed spokesman for this group made a compelling argument in parable about how circumcision was going to save his country.
We pointed out that one of the unaccounted for confounding factors in his study was numbers of HIV transmissions from men having sex with men (MSM). He said Uganda didn’t have so many homosexuals, and that the numbers were “very low, very low.” He’s right about the reported numbers in his study, which were around 1%.
Earlier in the day, another Ugandan researcher had informed us of her research into MSM using anonymous data collection, which aimed to get a more accurate count of behavior (rather than orientation). According to her research, up to 15% of Ugandan men have engaged in MSM in any previous 12 month period. Anonymity in the circumcision RCTs, of course, was not possible.
Our Ugandan friends upon hearing this more plausible number immediately shouted, “What village?! What village?!”
(Note that Uganda has been the center of efforts to criminalize gay men with death as punishment.)