Merits of circumcision highlighted

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

A meeting in Johannesburg with a national Aids body and other concerned groups today will put the spotlight on the merits of male circumcision in preventing HIV infection.

The forum will include the South African National Aids Council (Sanac), traditional leaders and civil society organisations, who will discuss how male circumcision could be implemented in HIV-Aids prevention and treatment policies.

This is based on findings that the prevalence of HIV was lower among circumcised men. Sanac's Sue Goldstein said circumcised men were "partially protected" from HIV.

'Traditional snips do not have benefits regarding HIV'

But this only applied in cases where the entire foreskin was removed during surgical circumcision and excludes "traditional" circumcision done during initiation ritual. With traditional circumcision, the entire foreskin is not removed, said Goldstein.

She said the foreskin contained cells that were highly receptive to HIV and removing it in some instances reduced the risk of infection.

But Goldstein warned that circumcised men were not immune to the virus and she encouraged the use of condoms and cutting down on the number of sexual partners.

'Surgically circumcised men are partially protected from HIV'

Goldstein said male circumcision did not offer additional protection to people in homosexual relationships.

"We would like to help the public by providing empirical and tested information to help make educated choice on health issues, especially around HIV-Aids," said William Mapham of the Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit.