GAWAYA TEGULLE: Unmasking the lie: Circumcision, sex and HIV/Aids

Occasionally, we get evidence that all of Uganda isn’t sold on the idea of male circumcision. Some do question the advocates of yet another outsider-advanced intervention. That’s what you wanted [salon.com book review removed], isn’t it, Helen Epstein?

Funny how Ms Epstein is blind to her own thesis when it comes to this.

Anyway, Gawaya Tegulle has written an article that appeared in The Monitor (Uganda) and on his own website. An excerpt and links to the whole article follow.

A few days ago I found it necessary to restate my position, calmly and quietly, that my sons – two so far – should under no circumstances be circumcised. Two very simple and I am persuaded, logical reasons.

First, while I respect the standpoint of those who argue for circumcision, I personally do not believe in it. Circumcision is such a personal affair; nobody has the right to decide for anybody else whether or not they should undergo it. And since kids are too young to appreciate the merits (probably lack of them) of a matter as personal and important as losing their foreskin, I argue that it is improper for somebody else (parent though they be) to make that decision for them, unless it is a medical emergency that has implications on their immediate survival or potency. If as adults they decide to submit to the knife, that is their responsibility.

The Monitor Link: Unmasking the lie: Circumcision, sex, and HIV/Aids

Tegulle’s own website Link: Unmasking the lie: Circumcision, sex, and HIV/Aids [dead link]

A CDC backed fellow of the Makerere University School of Public Health- CDC HIV/Aids Fellowship Programme, Kakaire A. Kirunda, and colleague responded in typical fashion here.

About David Wilton

fronterizo, defense lawyer, intactivist
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2 Responses to GAWAYA TEGULLE: Unmasking the lie: Circumcision, sex and HIV/Aids

  1. Joe says:

    Left a comment to the opinion reply:
    This is perhaps the most ridiculous response to an opinion that I’ve ever read. I have to admit that I pretty much stopped reading when the author claimed, “Regarding the latter [that circumcision promotes hygiene], even a high school student knows this.”, is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Perhaps a naive high school student from a country which embraces circumcision believes that but in the civilized first world, where circumcision is only practiced in the rare instance that it is medically necessary, know better. A penis is no more or less hygienic whether circumcised or not.
    That such a canard is put forward by someone who is supposed to be an academic makes it even more surprising. If mucosa tissue on a penis makes it ‘less hygienic’, I wonder what these researchers think about women’s ability to keep their vagina clean. I mean, given their relative dimensions it’s funny foreskin should be seen as a harbinger of putrification when women, who have no problem staying clean, walk around with a far lusher petri-dish between their legs. I guess they just believe that men are not able to take care of themselves. Which I suppose is a notion that they can entertain but it’s hardly factual.
    Further, Mr. Kirunda clearly misunderstood the meaning of the piece. The author of the original opinion was primarily staking out an ethical position. It is not a surprise that Mr. Kirunda’s missed and then failed to comment on this point since many in Mr. Kirunda’s field have deliberately ignored the question of ethics, simply brushing them aside. Such agencies are not really full of people who consider the ethics much beyond the question, “Is this acceptable in our culture.”
    For Mr. Kirunda’s benefit I’ll reduce Mr. Tegulle’s article to a few simple bullet points.
    1. Whether or not the potential benefits cited are sufficient to justify an irreversible, non-indicated intervention can only be adequately evaluated against the associated risks of surgery using the subjective preferences of the individual affected by the circumcision.
    Put even more simply circumcision will have no immediate or necessary benefit to his boys. If, when they are old enough to provide consent, they decide that the risks are worth the benefits they are free to choose that option.
    When the choice boils down to either getting circumcised, being sure to always wear condoms, and be choosy about your sexual partners or always wearing condoms and be choosy about your sexual partners, it’s not difficult to believe that a rational thinker will choose the latter.

  2. Joseph says:

    I posted a comment on the site, but here it is again for good measure:
    Mr. Kirunda does absolutely nothing to counter Mr. Tegulle. All he does is repeat the same old “studies show” mantra without actually touching the studies themselves, or responding to anything Mr. Tegulle says.
    Instead of telling us what “lie” Mr. Tegulle has said, Mr. Kirunda merely praises the studies that produced the latest mass circumcision policies and kisses the rear ends of the “scientists” that produced them. What, precisely, is the “lie” that Mr. Tegulle has said, Mr. Kirunda? Could you elaborate?
    You bet Mr. Tegulle has a bone to pick with scientists and advocates. The claim that even “high school students know,” that circumcision prevents HIV and promotes hygiene is false. Circumcision does not, cannot prevent HIV. Refute that “lie” Mr. Kirunda, go ahead. We’re waiting.
    What the “studies show” is precisely what is being questioned, and it is precisely what Mr. Kirunda evades. He merely continues to beg the question by reiterating what the so-called “studies show.” That’s not exactly what Mr. Tegulle was asking.
    Mr. Kirunda, Mr. Tegulle was asking “Who did the research, what methodology they employed or which experimentation humans they used.” We quite know what the studies say, it doesn’t need to be repeated. But are these “studies” credible? Can we trust that the producers of these studies actually had the well being of millions of African men in mind, and were solely without self-interest?
    No, we cannot. Bailey and Halperin are known long-time advocates of male circumcision, particularly male infant circumcision, and their aim has never been to reduce HIV transmission in Africa, but to bolster the waning support for the useless practice of male infant circumcision. Circumcision is also an important rite of passage in Africa that not all African cultures practice, and some peoples have actually dropped from their culture (i.e, the Luo and Zulu tribes). Methinks that Bailey and Halperin have coalesced with “scientists” in Africa who also want to bolster support for a cultural practice that is, or was, losing traction? What better way to circumcise all males than to make it mandatory policy for all, to “protect” againts that dreaded everyone fears like HIV? It appears that “scientists” promoting these “studies,” both Western and African, benefit from their promotion. It solidifies both the waning cultural practice of circumcision AND a steady stipend.
    Mr. Kirunda evades having to answer any questions Mr. Tegulle has asked by merely repeating what everyone else has said without question. He is not even aware, that the very premise behind these so-called “studies” produced by self-interested snake-oil salesmen, have been completely debunked. Can you tell us, Mr. Kirunda, how exactly the Langerhan cells “display receptors that enable HIV entry?” No, you can’t, because it is outside of your agenda to promote circumcision.
    The latest “studies” were based on the hunch that the Langerhans cells are quote unquote “the main point of entry for the HIV virus.” This Hunch was never proven, or questioned, just accepted. To date no scientist can tell us how circumcision works to prevent HIV, just merely like Mr. Kirunda, insist that “it just works, OK?” The more important issue is rolling out the mass-circumcision policies, and for godsakes, getting the American CDC and AAP to endorse infant circumcision.
    Kakaire A. Kirunda is a CDC backed fellow of the Makerere University School of Public Health- CDC HIV/Aids Fellowship Programme. Mr. Kirunda, I believe your agenda is showing?
    Behold; the studies on which all of the mass-circumcision policies, and with which the CDC and AAP are being cajoled are all based on complete bunk. DeWitte demonstrates in his study that the Langerhans cells actually help FIGHT OFF the HIV virus.
    http://www.circumcisionandhiv.com/files/de_Witte_2007.pdf
    Furthermore, this study demonstrates that HIV penetrates the inner mucosa layer of the foreskin and the outer skin (which really is a continuation of the skin of the rest of the penis) with no difference.
    http://retroconference.org/2009/PDFs/502.pdf
    In other words, no, circumcision doesn’t help anybody.
    This is already proving to be disastrous stone-soup policy, because men in Africa are already using their circumcisions as an excuse to forgo condoms.
    “…linking mass male circumcision to the Aids fight without proper information perpetuates the fallacy that it offers total protection. The growing reckless sexual behaviour and even flippancy about the exercise shows there is a lapse that could put into further peril communities already hard-hit by the scourge.
    Male circumcision to prevent Aids is pushing other healthcare programmes, including other HIV and Aids interventions to the back-burner…”
    http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/-/440808/818352/-/5ojrlt/-/
    “He [my husband] was circumcised and felt he didn’t have to wear a condom. When we found we had HIV after testing, he blamed me. He said, ‘You brought HIV into this house.’ It was because I tested first, when I was pregnant with my second child…”
    http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=79557
    Even if circumcision provided that magical “60%,” the women with which these men elope would be 100% exposed to the viral load in semen. The Wawer study has shown that women are 50% more likely to contract HIV from a circumcised partner.
    http://www.circumcisionandhiv.com/2009/07/africa-why-did-they-stop-the-study-to-examine-hiv-infection-among-partners-of-circumcised-men.html
    Is there a reason Mr. Kirunda isn’t telling us about these studies?
    That’s right, because he is a bought-and-paid-for CDC lackey, and he knows absolutely nothing of what he’s talking about. Mr. Kirunda should really do his research before attempting to sound educated on the matter of male circumcision and HIV.
    Is there seriously nobody at AllAfrica.com checking these things for accuracy?

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