Did you know you’d bought this?

Do you want to want to pay for another man’s circumcision? Too bad:

Top on the Ministry of Health’s five-year strategy is the free circumcision, to be made available in all public health centres.

Sh960 million from the US government has been injected into the project to buy surgical materials, mobilise communities and provide counselling. With a budget of Sh2,000 for each volunteer, the campaign targets 500,000 uncircumcised men in Kenya.

I’m not naive enough to think that men means males who’ve reached an age of consent. But I’ll assume that’s what it means for this story. Given that 500,000 is a very large sample, how many men do you think we’ll pay to develop this attitude?

The Kenyan government launched a campaign to promote male circumcision in 2008, but it has not yet reached most parts of the country. In the northwestern district of Turkana, where the practice is not part of the culture and few have even heard of it, IRIN/PlusNews spoke to Isaac Ikone, 22.

“The government has not yet come here to talk about male circumcision, but I have heard about it from friends. They say it prevents HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. If that’s true, I would definitely go for it so I can remain healthy.

“A while ago a friend and I found out we had the same sexually transmitted disease, and when I began to wonder how that happened, he told me he had slept with a girl I had also slept with in town. He is the one who told me that if we were circumcised, we would not have got sick.

“My girlfriend is still in secondary school and when she is not around I try to abstain from sex, but I’m not always successful. I don’t like condoms; if there is a better way to prevent HIV so that I can enjoy sex skin-to-skin, I will do it.

Yes, it’s anecdotal. It’s also where we end up when we push circumcision as a panacea for genital diseases. Responsible behavior gets lost. And I’m being forced to pay for this, which will ultimately further entrench a human rights violation when it leads to more infant circumcisions.

As it will, because the push for infant circumcision is purposeful. This is from Uganda, but the sentiment is universal:

Most men and women in Uganda support medical male circumcision as a way of lowering HIV risk, and up to 62 percent of uncircumcised men would consider being circumcised, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by Uganda’s Makerere University and Family Health International, which works to promote reproductive health, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development, surveyed 1,675 men and women in four districts; the results were released in the capital, Kampala, in December 2008.

Support for circumcising sons was even greater: almost 100 percent of circumcised men supported the circumcision of their male children, while 59 percent to 77 percent of uncircumcised men were in favour of having their sons circumcised, and between 49 percent and 95 percent of women wanted the procedure performed on their male children. [emphasis added]

I don’t think this is a conspiracy. Those public health officials who ignore what the individuals want probably have good intentions. They’re pursuing it because they know it works. Our government is happily joining the ride.

And what about those children who will be circumcised as a result?

“The purpose of the research was to find out what is on the ground regarding the capacity to conduct medical male circumcision, and its acceptability among the public,” said Dr Alex Opio, assistant commissioner for national disease control. “It was also done to pave the way for developing a policy, because all policies need evidence.”

An opinion poll somehow qualifies as evidence. What the individual wants is irrelevant, subjugated to the opinion of his parents. This is what it looks like to start with an outcome and create the necessary support.

6 thoughts on “Did you know you’d bought this?”

  1. This may be anecdotal but it is anecdotal evidence that is shockingly common. I’ve seen a number of articles that find the same ‘thought’ circulating. That circumcision makes you immune to HIV. This will be nothing less than a slow motion train wreck.

  2. There are at least seven African countries where men are more likely to be HIV+ if they’ve been circumcised: Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, and Tanzania (figures from http://www.measuredhs.com). If circumcision really worked against AIDS, this just wouldn’t happen. We now have people calling circumcision a “vaccine” or “invisible condom”, and viewing circumcision as an alternative to condoms.
    ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery will cost African lives, not save them.

  3. Ed. Note: Deleted. Duplicate comment.
    For everyone: When posting comments, it won’t always appear on the refresh. I apologize because I know this is annoying. I don’t know why this is, but I’m working on it. For now, a quick page refresh almost always reveals that the comment is posted.

  4. I posted this on this new scientist article:
    Circumcision is probably the cause of the HIV epidemic in Sub-saharan Africa. Men are circumcised at puberty as a ritual. They then go and have sex. With that open wound – the chances of acquiring the virus are increased massively. Not to mention other STI’s such as genital ulcers. Once they have the virus they can spread it easier too. Other thing that are contributing to the epidemic:
    A lot of married men have mistresses.
    A lot of married men also have gay sex – particularly anal.
    A lot of married men visit prostitutes while driving.
    There is a general lack of condom use. Circumcision reduces sensitivity.
    The foreskin is the most sensitive part. After circumcision the foreskin no longer protects the glans so it dries out and the skin hardens. So less sensitivity – less likely to use condoms anyway.
    Africans have what is known as dry-sex. They dry out the vagina with leaves etc. This means there is more likely to be tears and abrasions. They do it because they say that it is more pleasurable ( they probably need the extra friction because of circumcision).
    What has the WHO just begun doing? Rolling out circumcision to areas where it is not practiced on the basis of 3 flawed randomised control trials. You can find out more here:
    This is in a country with extremely low levels of qualified doctors – not least ones who can perform circumcision safely. So this will lead to more botched circumcisions and an increase in the spread of the virus. It will also lead to more risky behaviour – young men thinking they are now immune to the virus. It is sending out completely the wrong message. Why circumcise if you are going to use condoms? That is the point – they aren’t going to once circumcised.

  5. The US currently has the HIGHEST rate of STD transmission of any country and the circ rate among sexually active men in the US is still at around 85%. Circ has nothing to do with the rate of STD or HIV transmission.
    The problem is that men typically don’t show symptoms of STDs so they are unaware that they even have one. These men might never know that they have one until they are told by someone that they have infected or until they have had themselves tested. Testing men for STDs involves a very uncomfortable procedure so many men do not readily volunteer for them.
    Anyone who thinks that a circumcision will make him less likely to get AIDs or STDs is just plain foolish.

  6. AID’s is extremely infectious in Africa because of the concurrent sexual networks that are the norm. On average they have fewer sex partners over a lifetime than those in the U.S. that practice serial monogamy. The reason the virus spreads so easily there is because so many people have multiple partners for years and years. The disease is most contagious when someone is first infected, so they spread it to all their partners before they even know. It is less infectious in the U.S. because if someone gets it while in a relationship, they probably won’t move on to a new partner until there extremely infectious stage is over. This information is from The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa
    By Helen Epstein

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