I have said in the past that the sudden upsurge in interest and research in male circumcision as a prophylactic tool in HIV prevention has everything to do with lack of real progress in the area of vaccine research and political failure in rolling out the gold standards of prevention in highly impacted areas, namely sub-Saharan Africa.
That’s a long sentence. But it neatly encapsulates the reason that the international community has accepted this research now when it has rejected the idea for the two and half decades since this disease’s worldwide debut. Nevertheless, every push for circumcision in the history of the procedure has had ulterior motives underlying it, i.e. someone’s or some group’s agenda is served by it.
A confluence of factors has emerged in the last half decade or so to create the current state of affairs. Apart from the aforementioned failures of political (and humanitarian) commitment, it is no coincidence that America and Americans are principally behind this push, as they are behind nearly every overt ideological rooted movement of today, excepting religious movements. It is also no small coincidental matter that Americans are circumcised in the majority. How else could world organizations dominated by the United States, endorse a procedure that:
1. Has so far shown to be ineffective in real world settings;
2. Likely leads to greater HIV infection in young people [pdf];
3. Puts women at greater risk for infection; and
4. Ignores contrary evidence of the prophylactic properties of the foreskin itself [pdf]?
The fact is the practical problems with circumcision in Africa will greatly slow its adoption and likely portend harmful unintended consequences where it is adopted. Hence, I don’t see Africa as the probable intended “beneficiary.” The more likely goal, as in all politics, is not what it would at first appear.
The American circumcision rate has been falling for nearly two decades now. Perhaps the better question to ask is, Who is likely to be on the receiving end of this new push? Africans without resources or infrastructure to carry it out? Or Americans who may be scared back into conformity? I don’t know. I’m just asking.