Circumcision Makes Comeback in AIDS-Hit Swaziland
February 28, 2006
Circumcision has recently gained high regard in Swaziland in the wake of the first controlled study to show that circumcised men are about 60 percent less likely to contract HIV. French and South African scientists reported the findings, first published in the Public Library of Science Medicine, which quickly filtered into Swazi media. In the capital recently, patients eager to undergo the procedure almost rioted at an overbooked clinic where it is performed.
"There was a stampede," said Dr. Mark Mills, administrator at the private Mbabane Clinic. "There is not a family in Swaziland unaffected by HIV, and people are desperate."
Swazi mothers are a key factor in promoting circumcision. "I decided he needed to do it for safety and for the future," said Phindile Maseko, a nurse at Mbabane whose 13-year-old son was circumcised.
"Swazi men have heard that it is a good thing and when you play with your partner the sex is good," said Titus Shabangu, 36, who was recently circumcised. "That is why they come."
At 40 percent, Swaziland has the world's highest adult HIV rate, and one of the world's lowest circumcision rates. In the late 1800s, Swazi King Mswati II banned the procedure for fear it would distract young warriors recovering from the surgery. Scientists believe circumcision's value may be that the foreskin tissue removed includes cells that HIV seems to easily infect.
The Mbabane Clinic is performing 10 circumcisions weekly, up from less than one a month prior to the study. Two new full-time doctors were needed at the Family Life Association of Swaziland in order to meet demand. FLAS hopes the trend moves men to visit the clinic, where they can discuss safe sex and condom use. Some health officials worry that men could think circumcision is like wearing a "permanent condom" and might thus forego using condoms. Others, however, believe circumcision's benefit outweighs that risk.
02.24.06; Rebecca Harrison
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.