Africa: Brutal Practice Linked to AIDS
September 10, 2007
Women in sub-Saharan African who undergo female genital mutilation are increasingly at risk for HIV/AIDS, according to researchers and activists. Over the past 10 years, sporadic research data have linked FGM to rising rates of HIV transmission among women in countries where it is widely practiced.
"Because FGM is coupled with the loss of blood and use is often made of one instrument for a number of operations, the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission is increased by the practice. Also, due to damage to the female sex organs, sexual intercourse can result in lacerations of tissues, which greatly increases risk of transmission. The same is true for childbirth and subsequent loss of blood," said the UN Population Fund. Groups such as the London-based International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS and the Washington-based Global Health Council concur.
According to a cross-section of data from a 2006 UN report on AIDS, in countries where FGM is common -- including Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Djibouti -- an estimated 55-60 percent of HIV infections are among women.
FGM is outlawed in most countries, though it continues to be practiced in 28 African nations and in parts of the Middle East and Asia, the World Health Organization reports. In total, more than 100 million girls have suffered FGM, with 3 million more undergoing it annually.
Of the three most-common forms of FGM, Type III, also known as infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision, is the most extreme. The procedure involves removing the clitoris and labia and stitching the vaginal opening shut, save for a small space for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. Type III is common in Somalia, Sudan, and Djibouti, where some 98 percent of women have suffered some form of FGM, reports Human Rights Watch.
9.01.2007; Mary Katherine Keown
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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.