Monday, April 2, 2007

Circumcision as AIDS prevention...huh?

While listening to the CBC this morning I got to learn some really useful information from an interview with the Executive Director of HIV Edmonton, an organization that helps people with AIDS and HIV. Circumcising males can reduce the possibility of getting AIDS up to 60%, so parents should circumcise their baby boys.

Click here to read an article on it.

The only response I had was huh?

As the day wore on much more came to mind, like how the hell was this study done. Did they take 100 non-HIV positive males, some circumcised, some not, and have them engage in bareback relations with partners who may or may not be HIV positive? For some reason I think not. More than likely it was a more survey style study. Take a snapshot of the male population, ask a series of questions and find similarities and trends based on the gathered information. There are problems inherent in these types of studies, the trends could be interpreted incorrectly.

But I am going to argue as though it is true, and the following statement takes the cake:
“If we are not going to be comfortable speaking with our children about sex and sexuality then circumcision is another way to prevent [HIV]."

Deborah Jakubec, the executive director of HIV Edmonton

So instead of arming our children with knowledge, we will arm them with less foreskin. Just a thought but maybe it could be recommended that parents become more comfortable discussing sex and sexuality, as opposed to automatically going for a surgical solution.

After reading the article this afternoon I am dumbfounded. The various UN Health agencies recommended heterosexual males get circumcisions, homosexual men are just screwed I guess, (no pun intended), as AIDS prevention. It also goes on to say that this should be used in conjunction with male/female condoms, abstinence, reducing the number of partners or in other words, safer sex practices.

Within the article is appears as though the recommendation was for males in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now that makes more sense, there are different cultural attitudes towards sex, sexuality and a different equality balance between the sexes. Even within Sub-Saharan Africa male circumcision should only be used as a stop-gap measure while education on safer-sex practices continues.

In the end the best preventative measure on the spread of AIDS through sexual contact is to arm people with knowledge so they can make the best decision for themselves.
As for our bias, we will not be circumcising our son should we ever have one. Either way it is a personal decision each parent has to make.



DrSpouse said...

Actually, a friend of mine did this research. It is a population study comparing (IIRC) groups that traditionally circumcise versus those that don't, and statistically factoring out differences in sexual behaviour. Obviously everyone is pushing really hard for monogamy, testing, and condom use in the region but realistically these things aren't going to be the only answer any time soon.

darch said...

DrSpouse, thanks for your response. After rereading my post I should probably clarify a few things that are not clear at all in the way I wrote this post. My reaction was from the comments made on the radio which made no mention to the recommendations refer to sub-Saharan Africa. For the circumstances in that region it more reasonable course of action, have to control the bleeding before stitching up the wound so to speak. As for applying the same recommendations for Alberta or Canada, to me it is overkill. My response and sarcasm should have been more directed to the cbc radio interview, not the study, especially since I never read the study. It is really cool to know someone who did the study, whenever I read them it is always nameless people and seems so arms length. To be able to discuss these issues with someone who has researched it would be truly interesting.

Unfortunately my life has directly been affected by AIDS, one of my uncles, who I absolutely adore, has AIDS. I have watched him waste away, have drug induced psychosis, only able to be awake for 6 hours a day, shake from the drugs and held him as he cried from losing so many friends. It is a devastating disease.

Aurelia said...

Darch and Drspouse,

Good subject! Just wanted to say that I agree about CBC messing up the point of the study. Why would they advocate this in North America? Stupid...

But to be honest, I also think this is a bad idea in Africa. Mainly because unless you are a wealthy educated person, you are unlikely to have access to sterile instruments, etc. there. Reusing a knife is probably just as bad an idea as reusing a needle, IMHO. And we know that happens in Third world countries already.

Plus it doesn't protect women at all and in fact makes it more likely a woman will be infected by her partner, since circumcized males are more likely to cause scraping and tearing of vaginal walls and give the HIV virus another transmission route. They can avoid this by using lubricant and condoms, but then we're just back to the same problem anyway.

I don't know the answer, but I'm just not sure circumsizing is it.

Reesh said...

Anyway you look at it, this study is advocating genital mutilation. When are we going to stop pretending this is okay?