Male and Female Circumcision Associated With Prevalent HIV Infection in Virgins and Adolescents in Kenya, Lesotho, and Tanzania

Annals of Epidemiology, Volume 17: Pages 217-226, March 2007.



PURPOSE: Remarkable proportions of self-reported virgins and adolescents in eastern and southern Africa are infected with HIV, yet non-sexual routes of transmission have not been systematically investigated in such persons. Many observers in this region have recognized the potential for HIV transmission through unhygienic circumcision procedures. We assessed the relation between male and female circumcision (genital cutting) and prevalent HIV infection in Kenyan, Lesothoan, and Tanzanian virgins and adolescents.

METHODS: We analyzed data from recent cross-sectional national probability sample surveys of adolescents and adults in households, focusing on populations in which circumcision was common and usually occurred in puberty or later.

RESULTS: Circumcised male and female virgins were substantially more likely to be HIV infected than uncircumcised virgins (Kenyan females: 3.2% vs. 1.4%, odds ratio [OR] Z 2.38; Kenyan males: 1.8% vs. 0%, OR undefined; Lesothoan males: 6.1% vs. 1.9%, OR 3.36; Tanzanian males: 2.9% vs. 1.0%, OR 2.99; weighted mean phi correlation Z0.07, 95% confidence interval, 0.03 to 0.11). Among adolescents, regardless of sexual experience, circumcision was just as strongly associated with prevalent HIV infection. However, uncircumcised adults were more likely to be HIV positive than circumcised adults. Self-reported sexual experience was independently related to HIV infection in adolescent Kenyan females, but was unrelated to HIV infection in adolescent Kenyan, Lesothoan, and Tanzanian males.

CONCLUSIONS: HIV transmission may occur through circumcision-related blood exposures in eastern and southern Africa.

Ann Epidemiol 2007;17:217–226.    © 2007 Elsevier Inc.    All rights reserved.

KEY WORDS: Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Circumcision, Female Genital Cutting, Africa, Iatrogenic Disease, Mortality.

From Interdisciplinary Scientific Research, Seattle, WA (D.D. Colorado Springs, CO (J.J.P.); the Department of Sociology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM (J.M.R.); and the School of Social Sciences, University of Paisley, Paisley, Scotland (S.B.).

Address correspondence to: Devon D. Brewer, Interdisciplinary Scientific Research, P.O. Box 15110, Seattle, WA, 98115. Tel.: 1-206-985-2398; fax: 1-815-301-8854. E-mail: via

Received July 6, 2006; accepted October 17, 2006.


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