Why Male Circumcision?

Every 21 seconds someone dies of AIDS.

Every 15 seconds someone contracts HIV.

More than two-thirds (70%) of all people living with HIV, 24.7 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa—including  91% of the world’s HIV-positive children. In 2013, an estimated 1.5 million people in the region became newly infected. An estimated 1.1 million adults and children died of AIDS, accounting for 73% of the world’s AIDS deaths in 2013.*

In 2007, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS cited that Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) can reduce the risk of HIV infection by approximately 60% in high risk areas such as Sub Saharan Africa.

The “ABCs” – Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condoms are crucial elements, but are not enough. The much anticipated HIV vaccines have been under development for nearly 20 years but are nowhere near market readiness.The US Government (USAID) underscores the impact of male circumcision if conducted rapidly in target countries. However, surgical male circumcision requires highly trained medical professionals and sterile surgery-type settings. While genuine attempts have been made by target countries to scale up surgery in the past years, the procedure is not geared for the volume required in Africa, especially in rural and resource limited areas.

In December 2011, UNAIDS, in partnership with the US Government (PEPFAR) World Health Organization, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank launched an accelerated action plan to reach 20M VMMC by 2015. Achieving this goal will save nearly 3.4M lives and 16.5 Billion USD in long term healthcare costs. View press release.

In many countries, the increasing number of new HIV infections has made it clear that more funding is critically needed for HIV prevention – especially with regard to proven methods, such as Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC). VMMC is a major component in HIV prevention efforts and programs in 14 priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa have been supported by global health organizations, private foundations and Governments. However, while HIV infection rates in Sub-Saharan Africa have increased significantly, availability of funding for HIV prevention programs in those countries has been reduced dramatically on all fronts.

Distinguished Nobel Laureates and professors in Economics from the Copenhagen Consensus Center (Kydland, Lomborg, Schelling and Stokey, 2015) call the UN to focus on specific targets for 2030 that will direct trillions of dollars over the next 15 year. According to the experts, being smart about spending could be better than doubling or quadrupling the aid budget. Therefore the experts have prioritized more than a hundred of the proposed targets in terms of their value-for-money and selected 19 targets that would have the highest return-on-investment. One of them is avoiding 1.1 million HIV infections through circumcision.

Circumcising 90% of HIV-negative men in the five worst affected countries will cost $35 million annually and avert 1.1m infections by 2030 with the preventive benefit increasing over time. For comparison, making family planning available to everyone would cost $3.6 billion dollars or even cutting indoor air pollution by only 20% would cost US $1.3 Billion dollars. This makes male circumcision the cheapest investment with the highest benefit for society.

Therefore, male circumcision was included as one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals with an aim of reaching 27 Million male circumcisions in 14 priority countries by the year 2021.

What are the benefits of Male Circumcision?

Medical male circumcision is a one-time health intervention that provides men with life-long partial protectionn against HIV. Apart from reducing HIV infection, male circumcision decreases the risk of urinary tract infections; reduces risk of sexually transmitted diseases in men; protects against cancer of the penis and prevents inflammation of the glands and foreskin altogether.

Moreover, Male Circumcision also benefits women: improving hygiene, reducing STI’s, and reducing the risk of cervical cancer (Human Papilloma Virus – HPV). Men’s health is as much about women’s health when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases.

Most recently, results from a 5-year follow up study in Uganda showed that men who chose surgical VMMC were 70% less likely to be infected with HIV than men who were not circumcised. Similar results were reported from extensive follow-up studies in Kenya and South Africa.

Simply put, circumcision can save lives and plays a major role in turning the tide on AIDS.

More information can be obtained at www.malecircumcision.org

* Source: UNAIDS Gap Report 2014; UNAIDS Fact Sheet 2014.