INDIA: Nervous about circumcision to combat HIV/AIDS

Sometimes, you can sense a palpable nervousness in media reports from places where circumcision is not routinely practiced. Part of it is a religious or historical aversion that goes to longstanding issues of communal identity. The best example of this would seem to be Hindus in India.

The article that follows walks a tightrope between acknowledging the difficulty of reconciling a longstanding denial of the practice and trying to be current (some would say, hip) with the world. The Western proponents of circumcision clearly have basked in the sunlight of this HIV prevention strategy du jour. However, India and all the world are right  to be nervous when such mixing of science and advocacy occurs.

Article after the click-through.

Circumcision can control AIDS, but is India ready?

TIMES NEWS NETWORK, NEW DELHI: India will attend a high-powered meeting of the world’s top AIDS scientists in Montreux, Switzerland, on March 6 to analyse research data which says circumcision can reduce chances of HIV transmission among men, and how it
can be implemented in national AIDS control programmes.

However, unwilling to rake up a communal controversy that could harm India’s anti-AIDS programme, Naco director general K Sujatha Rao made it clear that the country would not undertake any trial to see whether circumcision actually works.

“It’s a sensitive matter. We will not implement it or carry out any trial. NACO is sending a representative to check the data that will be analysed by the world’s top scientists,” Rao told TOI.

The two-day conference organised jointly by WHO and UNAIDS, and to be attended by nearly 100 of the world’s top scientists, donors, programme and policy makers and representatives from civil society follows Friday’s revelation that circumcising men reduces their chances of getting infected with HIV by upto 60%.

The circumcision theory hadn’t received much encouragement in India. Sometime back, when executive director of Geneva-based Global Fund to fight AIDS, Richard Feachem, made a statement in Paris that he expected the epidemic to grow faster among Hindus because they didn’t practise circumcision, he received thousands of hate mails from the Hindu community.

WHO’s chief of emerging technologies against AIDS Dr Kim Dickson said, “Three studies have now said that circumcision works to control HIV spread. The findings, published in the February 24 issue of The Lancet, is very exciting.”


Sinha, Kounteya. Circumcision can control AIDS, but is India ready? Times of India. February 24, 2007.,curpg-1.cms

About David Wilton

fronterizo, public defender, intactivist, gay
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