Male circumcision should be promoted in developing countries as a major means of HIV prevention. Felipe Mejía @FelipeMejiaMV firstname.lastname@example.org Master of Science in International Health. Heidelberg University. Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDSIntroductionAccording to UNAIDS for its AIDS epidemic 2009 report, the total number of people living with HIVin 2008 was 33.4 million, among them 15.7 million of are women and 2.1 million children under 15years old. The same data reported 2.7 million new infections due to HIV in 2008 and 2.0 million deathsdue to AIDS. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest amount of people living with HIV accounting for 22.4million with an adult prevalence of 5.2%. Of over 7400 new HIV infections a day in 2008, 97% are inlow- and middle-income countries, 6200 are in adults (15-49 years old), 48% women. Comparing to2001, there has been a reduction in the total new cases by 0.5 million.i Even considering that the newcases have decreased over the years between 2001 and 2008, HIV/AIDS remains as an important causeof mortality and morbidity in the world especially in the poorest regions. Due to its continue spread,developing new methods or extending existing ones which can protect large populationa against newinfections are still urgent.Male circumcision has been analyzed for the past years as a possible procedure to protect men on HIVinfection. Indeed, three studies made in South Africaii, Kenyaiii and Ugandaiv have shown that itreduces the probability of getting infected by 50% making it as a possible tool for a national policy indeveloping countries. However, male circumcision programs depend on different factors which must beunder analysis according to particular cases.Efforts similar to the mentioned above has been carried out previously for antiretroviral treatments,showing that the integration with national policies, the civil society, all non-governmentalorganizations and other different stakeholders as well as qualified health facilities and medical productssupply are required to achieve success. It is also important to stress that in non-endemic regions, malecircumcision programs may not be significantly. However, for endemic places as it is in Sub SaharanAfrica, the possible results may be greater. It was estimated for 2007 that in rural KwaZulu-Natal,South Africa, male circumcision would prevent an estimated 35 000 new HIV infections in the 2·5million men with the previous knowledge that most of them were circumcised.vPeople’s acceptability:In most of the countries in Sub Saharan Africa, male circumcision is common practice. Some studiesvihave shown that 61% of men are willing to be circumcised and 81% of couples are willing tocircumcise their male children. However, for regions where this is an uncommon practice, thisintervention has more challenges and ethical in regarding to social, cultural and religious issues must beaddressed carefully.Male circumcision PrevalenceThe prevalence of male circumcision does not necessarily depend on the presence of religious activitiesor a specific cultural basis as it is in some countries in Africa. Indeed, it does not depend also ondifferences between developed and not developed countries. In USA more than 80% of new born werecircumcised in late 1970, 48% Canada and 24% UK. Yet USA has one of the highest prevalence of
male circumcision as a routine procedure with 84 to 89% in the 80’s. vii In developing countries wheremale circumcision is a common practice for social or non social reasons, it is important to establishwhat the prevalence is in order to set a base line for a future intervention.Information, Communication, Education (IEC):How to disseminate the information among the targeted people and integrate it to the other preventiveprograms? Considering that the protective effect has been estimated as 50% as mentioned above, themessages which want to get attention for the future circumcised men must make clear that malecircumcision is not always effective. So, it implies that the education among the population of interestmust be aware of other preventions tools and behaviors such as condoms, non promiscuous behaviors,etc. WHO and UNAIDS must focus on the messages that recent circumcised men should restart sexualactivity only after six weeks.viii Should the information only go straight to men or should involve alsotheir partners? Should women be aware about male circumcision effectiveness?Moral HazardIn this concern, it is possible to question: will the knowledge of being circumcised reduce thewillingness to use condom? Will it increase the probability of risky behaviors? In the trial carried out inUgandaix there is no evidence which suggest such moral hazard. Although, male circumcisioncounseling must consider this possible effect in any case.Religious and cultural issues:In places where communities practice male circumcision among their believes and who are reluctant toHIV/SIDA campaigns, male circumcision may be a possible bridge of dialogue to persuade them and tointegrate them into safer practices and achieve cultural and community acceptance.When to circumcise? Whom?Some trials show that the effectiveness of male circumcision decreases with agex, others have shownthat male circumcision in new born or neonatal is safer and has less cost comparing to adolescent andadultsxi. So, for male circumcision program seems to be better to do it at this age in places where thisprocedure is not common especially considering that there are less risks associated to circumcisionsmade in health facilities than in non clinical settings xii. Looking at this point, this kind of interventionseems to be similar to vaccination where the risk group is not already exposed. It is also important toinvestigate whether the male circumcisions made by trained health professionals and people from thecommunities have the same effectiveness.Male circumcision’s risks:As it was mentioned, possible complications in male circumcision procedures can come out dependingon: age of the patient, training of the personnel who perform it , instruments used and quality assuranceof the procedures such as sterility among others. In the trial made in South Africa, 3.8% of the mencircumcised by trained personnel developed complications afterwards.xiii Male circumcision whichtakes place in traditional areas where it is a common practice due to social or religious factors, as inAfrica, are related to high incidence of complications.xiv This is similar to the complications reportedfor developed countries where male circumcision is common.xv
Integration with other programs/procedures/products:There is no doubt that in case a male circumcision program is implemented; it must be parallel withother prevention activities such as condom promotion and delivery, awareness campaigns, counselingfamily planning, HIV tests, etc.Vertical vs Horizontal approach:Should an intervention like this require a vertical approach as it has been done for HIV/AIDS programinterventions? Or is it possible to integrate it into the neonatal care routine activities? These questionsshould be formulated along with the next consideration:“Although achieving high rates of circumcision might be beneficial, it should not be at the cost of otherdisease prevention strategies—eg, antenatal care, malaria control, or nutrition. Since an internationallyagreed-upon public health goal is for all women to give birth in health facilities, offering malecircumcision to babies in clinics would at least not divert national resources from current efforts tobuild systems, and might be a strategy that has multiple benefits” xviIt also has to be studied how many surgeries are needed to prevent one new case of HIV positive whichdepends on contextual factors as well as epidemiological. How cost effective for specific settingswould have an intervention such as this one?ConclusionEven considering the probable beneficial effects of male circumcision to prevent new cases of HIV,public health authorities must consider the social cultural context of the place under interest, theresources available, the trained available personnel, the male willingness, the possible clinicalcomplications and the respective awareness among the population, political and social implications.The question ultimately is: “Is anything acceptable if it leads to a successful result?”i Unaids. (2009). AIDS epidemic update December 2009. Available:http://www.unaids.org/en/KnowledgeCentre/HIVData/EpiUpdate/EpiUpdArchive/2009/default.asp . Last accessed 25 Feb2010.ii Auvert B, Taljaard D, Lagarde E, Sobngwi-Tambekou J, Sitta R, Puren A. Randomized, controlled intervention trial ofmale circumcision for reduction of HIV infection risk: the ANRS 1265 Trial. PLoS Med 2005; 2: e298.iii Bailey RC, Moses S, Parker CB, et al. Male circumcision for HIV prevention in young men in Kisumu, Kenya: arandomised controlled trial. Lancet 2007; 369: 643–56.iv Gray RH, Kigozi G, Serwadda D, et al. Male circumcision for HIV prevention in men in Rakai, Uganda: a randomisedtrial. Lancet 2007; 369: 657–66.v Welz T, Hosegood V, Jaffar S, Batzing-Feigenbaum J, Herbst K, Newell ML. Continued very high prevalence of HIVinfection in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: a population-based longitudinal study. AIDS 2007 Jul 11;21(11):1467-72.vi Westercamp N, Bailey RC. Acceptability of male circumcision for prevention of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa: areview. AIDS Behavior 2007;11(3):341-355.vii Bonner K. Male circumcision as an HIV control strategy: Not a “Natural Condom”. Reproductive Health Matters, 2001 ;9, 18, pp. 143-155.viii WHO/UNAIDS Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention: Research Implications for Policy and ProgrammingWHO/UNAIDS Technical Consultation 6–8 March 2007 Conclusions and Recommendations (Excerpts). ReproductiveHealth Matters 2007;15(29): pp. 11–14ix Gray RH, Kigozi G, Serwadda D, et al. Male circumcision for HIV prevention in men in Rakai, Uganda: a randomisedtrial. Lancet 2007; 369: 657–66.
x Bonner K. Male circumcision as an HIV control strategy: Not a “Natural Condom”. Reproductive Health Matters, 2001 ;9, 18, pp. 143-155.xi Schoen EJ, Colby CJ, To TT. Cost analysis of neonatal circumcision in a large health maintenance organization. J Urol2006; 175:1111–15.xii Bonner K. Male circumcision as an HIV control strategy: Not a “Natural Condom”. Reproductive Health Matters, 2001 ;9, 18, pp. 143-155.xiii Auvert B, Taljaard D, Lagarde E, Sobngwi-Tambekou J, Sitta R, Puren A. Randomized, controlled intervention trial ofmale circumcision for reduction of HIV infection risk: the ANRS 1265 Trial. PLoS Med 2005; 2: e298.xiv Sharif R Sawires, Shari L Dworkin, Agnès Fiamma, Dean Peacock, Greg Szekeres, Thomas J Coates Male circumcisionand HIV/AIDS: challenges and opportunities The Lancet, Volume 369, Issue 9562, 24 February 2007-2 March 2007, Pages708-713xv Bailey RC, Moses S, Parker CB, et al. Male circumcision for HIV prevention in young men in Kisumu, Kenya: arandomised controlled trial. Lancet 2007; 369: 643–56.xvi Sharif R Sawires, Shari L Dworkin, Agnès Fiamma, Dean Peacock, Greg Szekeres, Thomas J Coates Male circumcisionand HIV/AIDS: challenges and opportunities The Lancet, Volume 369, Issue 9562, 24 February 2007-2 March 2007, Pages708-713