Tuesday, July 24, 2012

UPDATE: International AIDS Trade Show 2012


What a rush!

So many things going on at once, so much I want to say, so much I want to comment on... I still need to give my final thoughts on this year's Colorado saga, not to mention the recent ruling in Cologne. Who knows if I'll find the time to comment on it all...

For the time being, I'd like to comment on the recent International Circumcision Expo. Uh, no wait, I meant to say International AIDS Trade Show. Oops, did I say that? I meant to say the International AIDS Conference happening in Washington DC this year.

The PEPFAR misinformation saturation drive finally arrived in DC, and Hillary Clinton didn't waste the opportunity to plug circumcision as HIV prevention. According to her speech, the U.S. is fronting $40 million tax dollars "to help South Africa reach its goal of providing voluntary circumcision to half a million boys and men this year." (Interesting how she managed to mash "voluntary" and "boys" in the same sentence... Let's not talk about the Soka Uncobe fiasco.)

Intactivists on the ground are bringing back images of the propaganda being used in DC to promote genital mutilation in the name of HIV transmission.

Some of the pro-cutting literature being given out in washington.

In a brazen act, posters being used in Africa are being passed out. Do you remember this from a blog post earlier?

There are lots of "debates" and "discussions" seem to be going on at the conference, but it seems what's mostly important is plugging circumcision and other pharmaceutical products, and getting people to practice safer sex, and the fact that after 22 years or so, there still isn't a cure or actual vaccine, is pure lip service.
Guess who is in DC plugging their wares?
"Yeah, we haven't actually FOUND anything new, but look at how much money we're spending on products and 'services' that we believe *might* help..."

The "questions" and "debates" are all rigged and geared toward selling something. All of the "evidence" supports what PEPFAR and other big ticket funders are doing and spending on. You will not hear evidence to the contrary; heaven forbid the science actually be discussed. (Because it's just so past "reasonable doubt" that it shouldn't even be discussed, you see?)

There are actually intactivist demonstrators at the conference, and it looks like they are helping get the word out. But what they have to say is strangely absent from the "debate."
Nobody is talking about how "voluntary" it is to circumcise children. Nobody is talking about tribes in Africa using the WHO endorsement to legitimize violence against non-circumcising tribes. Nobody is talking about the deaths and other complications. Nobody is talking about alternatives to circumcision. Are African men being informed? Just how "voluntary" is it if you're making African men afraid to say no? If you are stigmatizing them by attacking their masculinity?
What information do they have for men who have decided circumcision is not for them?
Or is this not an option?
Intactivist David Wilson at the Washington DC AIDS Conference

No doubt that getting people to question "the facts" is an inconvenience for those at the DC conference wanting for it to be "business as usual."

One-sided Arguments
Perhaps the attitude of pro-circumcision bigwigs at the conference can be summarized by the reaction of one young man with UN Dispatch; rather than take the time to discuss the "research" being used to plug male genital mutilation in Africa, Mark Leon Goldberg decided to snap a photo and write about how "wrong" intactivist demonstrators are.

Many have tried to respond to his rant piece with commentary, but it's been a day, and so far all people have been met with is the message that their commentary is "awaiting moderation." It seems this is a one-way conversation, and the other side is not going to be given a chance to defend their position.

But it's not just Mark Leon Goldberg at the UN Dispatch; this mud-slinging attitude can be sensed throughout the entire conference. Intactivists are not even being allowed to engage in the "debates" happening in the conference. While pro-circumcision advocates are being allowed time and space to discuss their "evidence," it seems they they will not engage with others who are able to dismantle it, and provide evidence to the contrary.

It's all one big commercial trade-show where no real debate is allowed; only staff-approved sales pitches.

We will be heard.
Mark Leon Goldberg is mistaken if he thinks he can just deliver cheap shots at intactivists uncontested.
I have collected some of the responses that people have tried to post on his article that are not being allowed and am taking the liberty to post them here.

The man in the picture responds...
I am that guy in the photo. Let me just state this fact. When the first case of HIV/AIDS was diagnosed here in America, Approximately 90+ % of our sexually active males were circumcised. And it, circumcision, didn't prevent, nor slow the spread of HIV in America. Safe sex, condoms, and leaving the prostitutes alone is what slowed the spread of HIV. Matter of fact, the circumcision rate in America has dropped dramatically in the last twenty years. As for your "studies" they are flawed, and I have the proof. There are numerous studies that flat out contradict your claims that circumcision "prevents" HIV. Explain to me why non circumcising countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and basically all your European countries, where circumcision is almost nonexistent, have a much lower HIV rate? Perhaps the single most important fact that you fail to consider or are willing to accept. Is that even though you make the claim that circumcision will provide a 60% less chance of contracting HIV, you continue to tell these victims that in order to fully protected from HIV they should still wear a condom. WTH? So why promote circumcision when a condom is still necessary to be fully protected? The answer is simple. Circumcision is a billion dollar industry, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. I invite you to come spend the day with me and listen to what people have to say about your claims. They laugh and reply just how insane your statements are. Just like how circumcision got started in America back in the 1860's as a way to stop boys from masturbating. Then circumcision became a cure all for club feet, curvature of the spine, tuberculosis, alcoholism, lunacy, hip troubles, diarrhea, bed wetting, to even cure the rapist. The list goes on and on. Only in America have such claims been made. The truth of the matter is simple. Circumcision destroys natural sexual intercourse. The U.S is the largest user of sexual lubricants. Why? It's pretty simple. Come outside and talk to me and let me educate you. Or better yet. I'll come inside your conference and give you an education that you have failed to fully understand nor grasp.

David Wilson
Cocoa Beach, Fl



Another response...
This article is extremely offensive and one sided. You did not attempt to even speak with the group promoting the message that circumcision is not the answer! You don't cite medical fact but instead use mathematics to support your claims. Here's a medical fact for you: 70% of American men are circumcised and yet, America has the highest HIV rates among young men out of any country, both civilized and uncivilized! Citing that information: does circumcision truly prevent HIV and AIDS? Or does it just make the naive nations of the world more susceptible to this deadly disease, because they don't use protection? Does promoting a message in Africa that says circumcision is the cure to AIDS really help anyone or are you promoting a deadly disease by saying "oh you don't need a condom, just mutilate your penis and that will cure you!"? Think before you promote lies!

Rebeca Claar
Response by Intactivist Hugh Young:
Tell that to the 14% of circumcised Zimbabwean men who have HIV, compared to the 12% of non-circumcised. (And don't tell them it's because of what they did after they were circumcised - whether having sex too soon or too carelessly - because the same ratio applied before the circumcision campaign began.)

Similar differences apply in 10 out of 18 countries for which USAID has figures. A study in Uganda started to find that circumcising men INcreases the risk to women - who are already at greater risk - but that was called off for no good reason before that could be confirmed.

The three studies on which you rely (not quite independent, when their authors have all collaborated on papers together) boil down to this:
They circumcised a total of 5,400 paid adult volunteers, including in the consent forms an instruction to refrain from sex for six weeks after the operation or use condoms if they couldn't. (They didn't, of course, tell them they could stop using condoms at the end of six weeks.) The control group had no such instructions.

The studies were neither double blinded nor placebo-controlled, and everyone involved very much wanted circumcision to be efficatious, laying the field wide open to experimenter and experimentee effects.

Less than two years later (the studies were curtailed, which is known to increase false positive results.) 64 of of the circumcised men had HIV, 73 fewer than the non-circumcised control group. Contacts were not traced, so it can't be sure if the men contracted HIV (hetero)sexually, when nosocomial and iatrogenic (hospital and doctor-caused) infections are a large but unmeasured risk in Africa.

327 of the circumcised men dropped out, their HIV status unknown. Finding you had HIV after a painful and marking operation to prevent it would be one good reason for experimental men to drop out. Changing your mind about getting circumcised would be a significant reason available only to the control group.

Those 73 circumcised men are the whole basis of the "60% reduction" claim. (Subsequent studies were not randomised and prove little.)

Your modelling and your projections are all based (wishfully) on that outcome. While no-one advocates replacing condoms with circumcision, many men are doing just that. You don't compare the cost of circumcision with the cost of condoms. It favours condoms.
Hugh Young

Shout out to all in DC
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the intactivist organizations who are on the ground at Washington DC countering this misinformation saturation drive, this insult to American intelligence.
Thanks to Intact America, Saving Our Sons, and countless others for being present on the ground at the DC conference countering all of the propaganda and misinformation. Sooner later the circumcision/HIV hoax is going to come crashing down, and it ain't gonna be pretty.

Interesting little fact:
AIDS rates in some US Cities rival hotspots in Africa. In some parts of the U.S., they're actually higher than those in sub-Saharan Africa. It's ironic the conference is taking place in Washington DC; according to a 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, rates of HIV among adults in Washington, D.C. exceed 1 in 30; rates higher than those reported in Ethiopia, Nigeria or Rwanda. 
The Washington D.C. district report on HIV and AIDS reported an increase of 22% from 2006 in 2009. According to Shannon L. Hader, HIV/AIDS Administration, Washington D.C. in 2009, "[Washington D.C.'s] rates are higher than West Africa... they're on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya." Hader  once led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's work in Zimbabwe.


  1. Particularly troubling is Hillary Clinton's indifference to the way circumcising men disempowers and perhaps endangers women - contrary to the sentiments of Bill some years back, when he said empowering women was the key to controlling the epidemic.

  2. Excellent post Joseph! Thanks for all the details and bringing us up to date.

  3. I think it's hilarious that the AIDS 2012 logo is a group of people protecting their crotches (or holding them in pain).