African chief evangelizes about adult circumcision

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Chief Jonathan Eshiloni Mumena (far left) risked impeachment from his Zambian tribe when he decided to undergo adult male circumcision, now an evangelist for the practice. Photo by Melody Wilson, International Reporting Project

Chief Jonathan Eshiloni Mumena (far left) risked impeachment from his Zambian tribe when he decided to undergo adult male circumcision, now an evangelist for the practice. Photo by Melody Wilson, International Reporting Project

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(RNS) A growing number of Zambians -- among them many Christians -- are opting for circumcision as a way to ward off HIV infection. In so doing, they are adding to the number of people who take on this ancient practice for cultural or religious reasons.

  • EuropeanMan

    Sarah Pulliam Bailey, why don’t you go and get circumcised?

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Let me think this through…

  • EuropeanMan

    Your article sounds like advocacy for circumcision.

    1) Circumcision does not lower the risk of HIV infection. Observational studies made in Zimbabwe show a higher incidence of HIV infection among circumcised than uncircumcised men.

    2) Christianity manifests itself in what you do to others and not to yourself. The catholic church recommended against circumcision early. Christianity and circumcision cannot be reconciliated.

    All this American propaganda for male circumcision is just disgusting. If you woudn’t do it to yourself, why do you recommend it to others?

  • Mark Lyndon

    From a USAID report:
    “There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence—in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher.”

    It seems highly unrealistic to expect that there will be no risk compensation. The South African National Communication Survey on HIV/AIDS, 2009 found that 15% of adults across age groups “believe that circumcised men do not need to use condoms”.

    It is unclear if circumcised men are more likely to infect women. The only ever randomized controlled trial into male-to-female transmission showed a 54% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised:

    ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, and especially Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery seems likely to cost African lives rather than save them.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey
  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    I don’t advocate for anything. Circumcision by itself will not prevent HIV. But studies show it does lower the risk.

    How do you know I wouldn’t do it to myself if I had the ability?

    Anyway, thanks for reading.

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  • Jacob

    As a devout Christian, the tribal chief should perhaps read the New Testament:

  • Jacob

    Yes or No: hypothetically speaking, would you engage in unprotected sex with a man if you KNEW he was HIV positive?

    Aside from being dubious at best (for every study promoting circumcision, one can find another study showing contradicting results) I also find it objectionable because of late, many articles promoting circumcision appear to have been written by women whose online presence (blogs, Twitter, etc) has a very strong pro-female bias. Some of these women (not you !!) appear to relish the idea of a man having his penis cut.

  • AngelXY

    “And in the wake of those male-oriented findings, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded a follow-up study in Uganda to see how male circumcision affected AIDS transmission to females. Six months into a two-year study following 2,000 HIV-infected men and their uninfected female partners, the preliminary results are disturbing. At the start of the study, about half of the men underwent a circumcision procedure. The other half – the control group – did not. Looking at the data for just 125 of the couples in the study, it appears that women have twice the chance of contracting HIV from a circumcised partner. The six-month-mark data show that of the women whose HIV-positive partners had been circumcised, 16 percent had contracted HIV. Of the women whose partners had remained uncircumcised, seven percent had acquired the disease.” circumcision-to-fight-hiv-poses-risk-to-women.html

    “Circumcision of HIV-infected men did not reduce HIV transmission to female partners over 24 months; longer-term effects could not be assessed. Condom use after male circumcision is essential for HIV prevention.”

  • AngelXY

    Wow. You need research to prove that if you don’t wash your genitals they will get dirty? I guess a campaign in Africa to teach people how to practice good genital hygiene will be a lot less profitable than pharmaceuticals, circumcision kits and devices. I forget, men also don’t have access to running water in Africa but their women do…

    Do men who prefer to wear the foreskin in the retracted position with the glans exposed permanently then not have the same benefits? Oh wait… no one can make any money from promoting that.

    Read the WHO pages carefully, is the focus on HIV prevention or on the marketing and roll out of circumcision devices instead? David R. Tomlinson is the inventor of the AccuCirc device, the improved Gomco, and the improved Plastibell devices. He also just so happens to be the “chief expert on circumcision” at the World Health Organization. Conflict of interest perhaps?

    “The risk factors for vaginal cancer: Age, Diethylstilbestrol (DES), Vaginal adenosis, Human papilloma virus, Cervical pre-cancers, Smoking, Alcohol, Human immunodeficiency virus, Vaginal irritation.”

    “HPV is passed from one person to another during skin-to-skin contact with an infected area of the body. HPV can be spread during sex – including vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, and oral sex – but sex doesn’t have to occur for the infection to spread. All that is needed is for there to be skin-to-skin contact with an area of the body infected with HPV.”

    “Still, circumcision does not completely protect against HPV infection – men who are circumcised can still get HPV and pass it on to their partners.”

    – The American Cancer Society (

    In other words, cervical cancer can be prevented by avoiding the risk factors. Similarly, if men avoid the risk factors of HPV etc there is no need for surgery. When did male genital surgery replace common sense, basic hygiene, safe sex and healthy habits? Or can only women practice common sense etc, but men are required to amputate part of their anatomy?

  • AngelXY

    The male and female prepuce have the same embryonic origins. For men it is called foreskin, for women it is called the clitoral hood. But surely, you would choose more conservative ways to protect yourself?

    There are also studies worldwide that show that there is no correlation or that HIV is higher for circumcised men. Picking three studies in Africa but ignoring the others is not science.

    Across those three female-to-male trials in Africa, of the 5,411 men subjected to male circumcision, 64 (1.18%) became HIV-positive. Among the 5,497 controls, 137 (2.49%) became HIV-positive, so the absolute decrease in HIV infection was only 1.31%.

    Based on the 1.31%… the 60% is a projected value from a computer simulation, for the male population overall in these areas, IF and ONLY IF – they reach the target of 20 million men. In other words the 60% does not represent the actual protection each individual can expect.

    I urge you to go read all the original studies for yourself, you will see the evidence is rather circumstantial. Research can be tailored to suit any agenda these days. Please don’t be fooled.