May 7, 2012
US urges circumcision for soldiers to fight HIV in AfricaMale circumcision is the best way to prevent new HIV infections in the military, the head of US anti-AIDS efforts told a gathering of top army brass from Africa, Eastern Europe and central Asia.
"We believe male circumcision is a highly significant, lifetime intervention. It is a gift that keeps on giving. [No, it is a theft that keeps on taking.] It makes a lot of sense to put extraordinary resources into it," US global AIDS coordinator Eric Goosby told the 400 delegates.
The meeting on AIDS and the military gathered officials from 80 countries, including most of Africa but also countries from Surinam to Georgia and Estonia.
Studies show that circumcision can dramatically reduce HIV infections. One study in South Africa last year found new infections fell by 76 percent after a circumcision programme was launched in a township. [Last year? How could they possibly get significant results in so short a time?]
In 2006, trials in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa found foreskin removal more than halved men's risk of HIV infection. Longer-term analysis has found the benefit to be even greater than thought, with a risk reduction of around 60 percent.
The United States is sponsoring programmes in several African countries with a goal of circumcising four million men by 2013.
Results so far are patchy. Although Kenya is close to reaching its target of 80 percent of sexually active men, Uganda has achieved less than five percent of its target.
"We need the military to take up some of these circumcisions," said Caroline Ryan of the US Global AIDS Coordinator's Office. [So if some men refuse to have part of their genitals cut off, find others who can't refuse.]
Little data exists on HIV rates among soldiers. Few countries are willing to divulge statistics, fearing they will be perceived as weak. [Perhaps they should find out at the same time whether circumcised soldiers are any less likely to have HIV than intact ones?]