AVAC STUDY: Medical male circumcision effect on women likely universally bad

A bunch of focus groups were set up in East Africa to determine women’s attitudes and perceptions (shaped no doubt by experience) to medical male circumcision. All the findings came out negative. From believing that male circumcision is by definition an indicator of a man’s HIV status (i.e. negative) to the fear that male circumcision will lead to an increase in female circumcision to the experience of women finding themselves in a reduced negotiating position when it comes to safer sex, male circumcision is UNIVERSALLY BAD for women. What’s worse is the researchers appear as ignorant as their subjects on the meaning and impact of male circumcision – albeit in a different way.

Link: New report provides women’s perspectives on medical male circumcision for HIV prevention

Link: AVAC – Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention


image / flickr / davida3 / Samburu children

About David Wilton

fronterizo, public defender, intactivist, gay
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4 Responses to AVAC STUDY: Medical male circumcision effect on women likely universally bad

  1. Joseph Lewis says:

    Excellent letter, Jed. I think we should find a way to make this more open. It will not surprise me if you are completely ignored, or sent back some sort of form-letter that doesn’t even address what you had to say.
    Here are some afterthoughts concerning the above article:
    “The women reported their partners either adapting or continuing risky behavior after ‘the cut'”, says Carol Odada, from Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya.
    …This would be a result of circumcised men’s misperceptions that they could not be HIV positive and/or could not transmit the virus.”
    But the converse is not given any thought; the misperception that all intact males are HIV positive and transmit the virus every time.
    “…the need for communications campaigns that directly address the distinctions between medical male circumcision, traditional circumcision and female genital mutilation.”
    Right. Because making it “medical” makes it “not mutilation.” Let’s talk about the “difference” between “medical male circumcision, traditional circumcision,” and “female genital mutilation,” to which there is not a “medical” counterpart.
    The pro-male genital mutilation bias couldn’t be laid any thicker.

  2. Jed Stamas says:

    I wrote to the email address in the link.
    Hi Ms. Feuer,
    I am a science teacher, independent AIDS researcher, and human rights activist. It is deeply disturbing to me that your organization is promoting male genital cutting (MGC) for HIV prevention. Based on my research, promoting MGC will only further the African AIDS crisis, both among men and women. I beg you to reconsider your policy positions and adopt a new approach to fighting AIDS that does not involve amputation of healthy, erogenous tissue.
    Your organization claims to help women, but MGC will do nothing to help women (or men); it will only make the AIDS crisis worse. The most obvious reason is that a woman can contract HIV just as easily from a circumcised man as from an intact man. Even if the biased findings of pro-MGC researchers (such as Daniel Halperin) are true, MGC only has a small protective effective in men, and your organization claims to be focused on helping women. In addition, international AIDS data shows no connection between MGC rates and HIV rates. The United States has one of the highest MGC rates in the industrialized world, but its rate of HIV infection is far higher than that of Europe, India, and China, where few men are circumcised. Also, data do not indicate that Isreal’s HIV rate has been lowered by the circumcision of its male population. Most men in Washington, DC are circumcised by its HIV infection rate is 3%.
    The second major reason why pro-MGC policies should be immediately abandoned is because men circumcised in HIV “prevention” programs believe, falsely, that they cannot acquire HIV if they are circumcised. This belief has already been explicitly stated my many African men. If newly circumcised African men believe that circumcision protects them, they will stop using condoms and engage in more risky practices. In fact, your own article states “‘The women reported their partners either adapting or continuing risky behavior after ‘the cut'”, says Carol Odada, from Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya.” Here is a link to another article that
    The third reason why MGC should not be promoted is because it will increase rates of FGC and is being used to promote the nonconsensual cutting of male children’s genitals. Elective, adult genital cutting is more ethical than the forced, involuntary, nonconsensual cutting of children. However, it is still unethical if the patient is not informed of the risks and consequences of the surgery beforehand. African men are not being told that MGC amputates the most sensitive parts of the penis (see Sorrells, et. al.) or that the male foreskin contains thousands of specialized nerves designed for sexual pleasure. It is a sexist and ethnocentric double standard to say that it is wrong to cut female children’s genitals, but not males’. If you do not care about sexual pleasure or bodily integrity, why doesn’t your organization promote FGC as well as MGC? Are you aware of the peer-reviewed, published studies that show that FGC supposedly protects against HIV acquisition? In fact, your own article states: “Some women report the concern that the promotion of circumcision for men would increase the promotion of female genital mutilation,” says Allen Kuteesa from Health Rights Action Group in Uganda.
    I am unsure why your organization continues to advocate for MGC in light of the findings included in your report. My only conclusion is that MGC campaigns are being conducted by organizations whose goal is not to decrease HIV/AIDS, but instead come up with a justification for continuing to perform circumcisions on minors (who do not consent to the procedure) in nations such as the United States. I ask you to consider the possibility that MGC campaigns may have the long term effect of making the African AIDS crisis worse than it already is. I fear that history will show this to be the case. However, it is not too late for your organization and others like it to reject being manipulated by powerful forces that seek a rationalization for religious and cultural MGC.
    Instead of promoting MGC, your organization should research non-sexual causes of HIV acquisition. According to some researchers (such as David Gisselquist in his book, Points to Consider), over 50% of all HIV infections may be due to non-sexual causes. Also, please read the webblog http://www.circumcisionandhiv.com, and the article by Way, et. al. at http://www.iasociety.org/Default.aspx?pageId=11&abstractId2197431 which comes to this conclusion: “We find a protective effect of circumcision in only one of the eight countries for which there are nationally-representative HIV seroprevalence data. The results are important in considering the development of circumcision-focused interventions within AIDS prevention programs.” There is no reason to assume that MGC will have any type of positive effect at all. And please, consider the human rights fallacy of advocating for a procedure that amputates healthy erogenous tissue. The most basic human right is the right to autonomy over one’s own body; this right applies equally to both genders.
    Edward Stamas

  3. Joe says:

    It seems clear to me what’s going to happen. Prevalence increases due if for no other reason to these misconceptions. These people are so intent on a silver bullet solution that they’re blind to the slow motion train wreck they’ll be causing.

  4. Joseph Lewis says:

    This is absolutely outrageous. I mean, instead of focusing on how to best prevent HIV transmission, let’s figure out what women’s attitudes are concerning male circumcision. And, instead of addressing their valid concerns, let’s figure out how to best stuff a dubious, ethically bankrupt mode of “prevention” down their throats.

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