Experts in Senegal Concerned About Effect of Male Circumcision Studies on Sexual Behavior of MSM
HIV/AIDS experts are warning men who have sex with men in Senegal that male circumcision alone does not prevent HIV transmission and are urging MSM to use other methods to protect themselves against the virus, IRIN News reports. According to IRIN News, the warning comes after research indicated that circumcision could help prevent HIV transmission; however, the research was conducted among heterosexual men (IRIN News, 8/8).
According to final data from two NIH-funded studies -- conducted in Uganda and Kenya and published in the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Lancet -- routine male circumcision could reduce a man's risk of HIV infection through heterosexual sex by 65%. The results of the Uganda and Kenya studies mirrored similar results of a study conducted in South Africa in 2005. In response to the findings, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS in March recommended the procedure as a way to help reduce transmission of the virus through heterosexual sex (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/22).
According to the French Institute for Applied Medicine and Epidemiology, about 21.5% of Senegalese MSM are HIV-positive, compared with 0.7% of the general population. HIV/AIDS experts are concerned that the study's findings could confuse MSM and lead to more risky sexual behavior, as well as a higher HIV prevalence among the population. A 2003 study conducted by Cheikh Niang of the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal's capital, Dakar, found that 23% of MSM used a condom during their most recent sexual encounter. In addition, many Senegalese MSM also have wives or girlfriends to be accepted by society -- placing more people at risk of contracting HIV -- IRIN News reports.
According to some observational research, male circumcision could reduce the risk of HIV among MSM by about 50%. However, Bertran Auvert, an author for the 2005 South Africa study, said that because the studies were observational, they "prove nothing." Auvert added that experts "can merely suppose" that circumcision offers a "certain level of protection."
Jean-Louis Rodriguez -- former executive secretary of And Ligeey, a Senegalese association that promotes the rights of MSM -- said experts do "not want to encourage people to hide behind the idea that circumcision completely prevents the transmission of HIV." Rodriguez added that HIV prevention messages "must always be targeted" toward MSM. Khoudia Sow, WHO's HIV/AIDS director in Senegal, said that targeting HIV prevention messages at MSM is "not a question of revising all our prevention techniques," adding that "circumcision could play a part in the range of existing measures, but in no instance would it substitute them" (IRIN News, 8/8).