Calls for circumcision in HIV fight

SCIENTISTS have called for the speedy inclusion of male circumcision in the comprehensive HIV prevention package.

SCIENTISTS have called for the speedy inclusion of male circumcision in the comprehensive HIV prevention package.

This despite questions raised about human rights and the confusing message it might send to people.

Studies have shown that male circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV in heterosexual men by more than 50percent if done correctly. Work is being done on the policy to include circumcision in the HIV National Strategic Plan (NSP), but there are ethical issues around it.

One of the main issues is when to circumcise the child. The Children's Act prohibits circumcision of males under 16 years of age. It only exempts the procedure when performed in accordance with religious practices or for medical reasons on the recommendation of a doctor.

Mark Heywood, deputy chairperson of the SA National Aids Council, said: "Though the Children's Act says no child under 16 years should be circumcised without a medical or religious reason, we feel that it should be done because it is in the best interest of the child.

"The Constitution does provide for a parent or guardian to decide for a child for medical reasons or if it's in their best interest. In the case of male circumcision it is. We recommend that children under 16 years should only be circumcised after proper counselling and with their consent. We are calling on the government to speedily include it in the HIV NSP," he said.

Apart from age restriction, concerns have been raised about the message it might send to people.

"Male circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV in men. Studies conducted in Orange Farm over a two-year period proved that. But people must know that condoms are still the best protection we have. Circumcision must be promoted in such a way that it does not lead men to believe that they can have riskier sex," said Olive Shisana of the Human Sciences Research Council.

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