Thursday, July 21, 2011

BOTSWANA: Men Shunning Circumcision a "Mistery"

A few blog posts ago, I expose how the PEPFAR backed Soka Uncobe campaign is having trouble getting off the ground. Such a failure the campaign has been so far that organizers have tried boosting the campaign with a football team and endorsement from the king himself.

It looks like, however, Swaziland is not the only country where men aren't swallowing the circumcision/HIV pill. According to Mmegi, in Botswana, only 14,000 of 467,000 targeted men (12%) have stepped forward since the program began last year.

In the words of Principal public relations officer at the ministry of health Temba Sibanda, that a large portion of the targeted group is not coming forth for circumcision is a "mystery."

A "mistery?" Really? Has the ministry of health not considered that perhaps these men aren't too keen on getting part of their penises cut off? Even with perceived "benefits?"

Have "mass circumcision campaign" organizers ever considered the possibility that some men may never agree to get circumcised? That some men treasure their bodies and would prefer an alternative? What alternatives do circumcision campaign organizers have ready for such men? Or was prefering to stay intact simply not supposed to be an option?

The Soka Uncobe campaign has tried to appeal to Swazi masculinity by employing the imagery of women, and asking women to "support" men who go in for circumcisions. But does that same "support" go for the men who would rather learn proper hygiene and the proper usage of condoms?

That is a question that needs to be put to these knife-happy pro-mutilators. What if despite all the efforts, the men would prefer an alternative to circumcision? Do they have that scenario in mind? Do they have education packages as part of these "mass circumcision campaigns" for men who do not want to be circumcised in place? Or are they simply not going to offer these men that option?

The priorities of so-called humanitarian aid organizations come ever into view; what is the true end-game? Is it truly the prevention of HIV transmission? Or is it the acceptance and proliferation of a controversial surgical procedure?


  1. It does seem that they are trying to back men into a corner, doesn't it?

    'If you refuse to be circumcised, you are a selfish barbarian who contributes to the proliferation of AIDS.' - That's the underlying message.


  2. "Is it truly the prevention of HIV transmission? Or is it the acceptance and proliferation of a controversial surgical procedure?"

    This is exactly what I wonder every time I read about these African studies. I suspect that the "endgame," as you put it, is a boost in demand for infant circumcision in the developed world, particularly in the US.

    I think the strategy of circumcision promoters is to embed the 60% figure, or now I suppose the 76% figure, in the public consciousness as just sort of a convenient soundbite that doesn't have any detailed information attached to it. And it does seem to work on some people. I can' tell you how many times on sfgate I've seen comments like "I circumcised my child because it reduces his chance of getting an STI by 60%." Or "If you have a foreskin, your chances of getting AIDS are 60 percent higher. What more proof do you need that a foreskin is a dirty filthy disease carrying body part?"

    Of course, what's missing from that soundbite logic is that these numbers are coming from very small groups of men in a part of the world where prostitution is commonplace and condoms use is extremely low.

    And as you pointed out in another post, studies in other parts of Africa indicate that circumcised men have similar or higher rates of HIV infection when compared to intact men, so that 60-76 percent figure should be viewed in the light of those other numbers. Are there other factors besides circumcision status that account for the relatively low rate of infection in the circumcised group? That seems likely when you look at the numbers in other African populations.

    You know a study I'd like to see? I'd like to see a study of say 1000 intact men in the developed world, Europe, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the UK. What would happen if you asked those 1000 men "Would you like a free circumcision? It has been proven to reduce the transmission of AIDS in Ugandan men who have unprotected sex with prostitutes by 60-76 percent."

    How many of those 1000 men do you think would say yes?

  3. @Kurt
    And, of course, you and I BOTH know that no parent actually cares about reducing HIV transmission. Quoting this or that study is, as you say, nothing but a convenient soundbite that nobody has actually looked into. People who were looking to circumcise their children aren't looking out for their child's best interest, but rather, their own piece of mind.

    People seem to conveniently forget that circumcision never prevented HIV here in the US. It's a matter of fact that even though 80% of our men are circumcised from birth, we have higher rates of HIV transmission than Europe, where circumcision is rare.

    For me, there is no doubt about it. It is obvious what these "studies" are all about. It's what it's always been about; the justification of deliberate child abuse with blatant pseudo-science. It's not about the circumcisees, it's about the circumcisers. "Studies" exist for THEIR benefit, not the benefit of their subjects.

    Not too long ago, female circumcision also had "benefits" in this country. Doctors performed it and it was covered by insurance companies like Blue Shield. But suddenly, nobody cares about these "medical benefits" any more.

    These so-called circumcision "studies" are a disgrace; a blight on modern medicine. This whole circumcision/HIV crap is a scientific scandal waiting to happen. Sooner or later this hoax is going to blow over, and we need to be ready to indict the culprits when it does.

  4. @Tydomin

    Yep, the vilification of anatomically correct genitals and the stigmatization of intact men seems to be the name of the game. It's sexist, perhaps even racist, the idea that African men could never learn to wash or wear a condom. Don't even bother giving them that option, just circumcise them all, and ridicule those that have the nerve to question.

    Well, it looks like so far, at least in Swaziland and Botswana, the joke's on cutters...

    I wonder what's gonna happen if the men don't start lining up... Will they actually make it compulsory? And if they do, would they be able to enforce it?

    It would be nice to see a demonstration of resistance on the part of the men of Swaziland who are fed up with this Soka Uncobe harassment. The men of Swaziland and Botswana need to tell PEPFAR and their ministries of health to shove it with their circumcision.