There is a common perception that when males undergo circumcision then they don’t need to make use of a condom to safeguard against HIV/Aids
However, public health specialist Marina Rifkin, from HIV management organisation CareWorks, cautioned that condom use is crucial.
Does not protect against all STIs
“As medical male circumcision (MMC) only offers partial protection against a man’s risk of acquiring HIV (60% reduction over a man’s lifetime), correct and consistent condom use is still essential even after undergoing MMC,” she told Health24.
“It is also important to remember that MMC does not protect against all STIs, nor does it prevent pregnancy.”
Currently, over two million men in SA, aged 15 to 49, have been circumcised. South Africa is about halfway toward the national target of circumcising 4.3 million males, aged 15 to 49, by December 2016.
Rifkin noted that ground breaking research in 2005 from Orange Farm demonstrated how HIV could be prevented by MMC when offered as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy.
“This South African study, was the first randomised controlled trial (gold standard for clinical trials) to be published that demonstrated that circumcision offered protection against HIV infection “equivalent to what a vaccine of high efficacy would have achieved'”.
She said that the publication of the Orange Farm trial results sparked an increased interest in the use of circumcision for Aids prevention in international health agencies.
Respecting cultural practices
Ongoing research in Orange Farm has shown lower HIV infection rates among circumcised men than among uncircumcised men. Models also suggested that voluntary MMC scale-up would reduce HIV incidences in eastern and southern Africa by roughly 30-50% over 10 years.
MMC also reduced the risk of penile cancer, and the risk of acquiring the human papilloma virus (HPV) and, as a result, cervical cancer among the female partners of circumcised males.
Commenting on traditional circumcisions, Rifkin said: “The medical community and traditional leaders and structures work together to make all circumcisions safe while at the same time respecting cultural practices.”
She added that South Africa has a rich culture and there is no reason why families and young men should have to choose between culture, safety and protecting themselves against HIV.
“There are many initiatives underway in which traditional leaders are working with medical practitioner and the Department of Health to explore how the medical benefits of MMC can be married with the rich culture behind the initiation practice.”
She noted that since the national MMC programme is focused on increasing the uptake of circumcision among males aged 15-49, the age at which a male choses to undergo MMC is not much different than that when he would undergo traditional circumcision as part of his passage into manhood.