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As thousands of young men in Nyanza Province troop to health centres to be circumcised in hopes of fending off HIV, new studies show it might be too early to claim victory. Although circumcision has been touted as one of the ways to prevent HIV infection, recent findings show an increase in HIV infection in regions where most males are circumcised.
According to findings of the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey (Kais) released last week, North Eastern and Coast provinces, where 97 per cent of males were circumcised, registered an increase in HIV prevalence.
Within a span of five years, HIV prevalence in North Eastern and Coast provinces increased from 0 to 1.0 per cent and from 5.8 per cent to 8.3 per cent respectively. In the same period, HIV prevalence in Nyanza Province, where about 60% of men are intact, stood at 15 per cent, the lowest in the country.
These are sobering statistics for young men who have rushed to get circumcised in he belief that doing so would provide complete protection from HIV infection. The new findings of growing HIV prevalence among circumcised males indicates the practice cannot protect an individual from HIV infection unless it is combined with other practices including using condoms, being faithful to one partner, or abstaining from sex.
Health officials acknowledge that getting people to look at circumcision in the larger context of other factors and strategies can be challenging. “The figures from these two provinces are sending a warning that circumcision alone is not the magic bullet to controlling the disease. Other methods have to be used in combination,” said Dr Ibrahim Mohammed, Head of National Aids and STD Control Programmes in the Ministry of Medical Services.
The increase in prevalence in communities that circumcise indicates there are other factors that contribute to the spread of the disease among males. Multiple sexual partners, low condom use and alcohol and drug abuse are some of the factors.
“Unless we address all the reasons predisposing people to HIV infection, we might not make much headway,” said Judy Adero, who has lived with the virus for nine years. But scientists still believe circumcision will result in the lowering of HIV prevalence in provinces such as Nyanza....
...Meanwhile, female activists have criticised the way the whole operation is being carried out, arguing that it is making women more vulnerable as men engage in sex with multiple partners secure in the [false] knowledge that they are 'safe.'
Instead of trying to use circumcision as a way to not have the difficult discussions with our boys, we need to tell them the truth:
* practising safe sex will protect them from getting a sexually transmitted disease, like HIV and AIDs, 99% of the time.
* sharing needles WILL get you in trouble- so how about you just stay away from drugs altogether?
* showering and washing your penis properly- which takes about 10 seconds- will keep you clean and prevent a bad case of the stinkys and go a long way to help you find a girlfriend.
Really. It's not rocket science.