South Africa: Ritual Circumcision Likely Contributing to HIV Spread

News  UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (Johannesburg). Thursday, 7 July 2005.

South African medical experts are concerned that the repeated use of unsterilised blades in the ritual circumcision of adolescent boys might be spreading HIV.

The practice, which is performed without anaesthesia, is meant to reinforce the belief that real men can endure pain, but hundreds of boys have died or been maimed by the procedure, leading provincial health officials to criticise the tradition.

The Baltimore Sun newspaper in the US quoted Graeme Meintjes, a South African AIDS specialist and author of a book on ritual circumcision, as saying, We can imagine, in some communities, about 20 percent of boys going off to the bush [for circumcision] will be HIV- positive - it's an extremely high risk.

However, researchers have been hoping that circumcision might become an effective tool in slowing the spread of HIV in Africa, where an estimated 70 percent of men are circumcised at birth or during rites of passage ceremonies.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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