Circumcision and HIV infection

September 8, 2010

I WANTED to counter a claim made by Mike Marqusee in an otherwise wonderful article ("Swaziland's fight for democracy").

Marqusee claims that "there is no evidence that circumcision affects HIV spread." This is not true, and its utterance has dire consequences for those infected and impacted by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The World Health Organization declared three years ago that circumcision should be part of any strategy to prevent HIV infection in men. The organization based its recommendation on three randomized clinical trials in Africa that found the incidence of HIV was 60 percent lower in men who were circumcised. Until recently, there was little evidence explaining how circumcision might reduce a man's risk of acquiring HIV.

A study led by scientists at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Johns Hopkins University and published January 6 of this year in the scientific journal PLoS ONE found that that circumcision dramatically changes the bacterial environment of the genitalia, decreasing the presence of bacteria which provoke inflammation, thereby lowering the chances that immune cells will be in the vicinity for HIV viruses to infect.

Socialists should oppose the Swaziland government's imposition of any medical procedure on the population, but not because this particular procedure doesn't work. Socialists should instead stand with the people in their fight for democracy, which should include democratic control over the distribution of resources, including education about and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
Lonnie Lopez, Seattle

Further Reading

From the archives