Male Circumcision Provides Incredible Risk Reduction in Transmission of HIV

A man and his child at a male involvement event in Uganda, where EGPAF is supporting efforts to eliminate pediatric HIV.

James Pursey/EGPAF

When considering ways to prevent transmission of HIV, male circumcision does not initially come to mind. But in fact, male circumcision can reduce the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60 percent, according to the World Health Organization(WHO).

In the southwest region of Uganda, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) provides male circumcision to men as part of the STAR-Southwest project funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Male circumcision is a priority intervention for HIV prevention, both for the Ugandan government as well as USAID. The project uses a mixed approach for delivering safe male circumcision (SMC) services, consisting of SMC services at health facilities, outreach events within communities, and camps. The camps are special events that focus on SMC, as well as other health services and activities usually related to “coming of age” traditions for young men.

Mass media campaigns and community SMC champions inform men about the SMC initiative. Radio continues to be one of the most effective ways to reach audiences and radio announcements of planned SMC camps are complemented with a series of radio talk shows on HIV prevention. The SMC-specific radio talk shows have aired in 11 districts of the southwest region. Between October 2012 and June 2013, 60,300 men were circumcised through the EGPAF project.

The long-term goal of this male circumcision initiative is to reduce HIV transmission rates and new HIV infections in the southwest region of Uganda. In conjunction with other HIV prevention programs, including counseling, group education, condom distribution, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV services, male circumcision could help reduce the number of HIV infections and move Uganda that much closer to a generation free of HIV.

According to Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, voluntary medical male circumcision could prevent an estimated 3.4 million new HIV infections and save a net $16.5 billion in lifetime HIV/AIDS treatment and care costs if programs reach 80 percent of the population in PEPFAR’s 14 target countries.

With compelling evidence behind it, safe male circumcision could help turn the tide in the fight to eliminate pediatric HIV.

Michelle Betton is Associate Communications Officer for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.