The study claims the cut increases the spread of HIV/Aids and can only reduce its transmission by 1.3 per cent at most. It faults the methodology of past studies in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa that showed circumcision offers up to 60 per cent protection to HIV negative men in heterosexual relations.
The dissenting study was published by Australia’s Thomson Reuters in their Journal of Law and Medicine. The authors insisted that the WHO/UNAIDS recommendation in 2007 ignored a vast body of contradictory evidence. According to the article, the studies had selection bias, inadequate blinding, problematic randomisation, experimenter bias, lead time bias, supportive bias, participant expectation bias, time-out discrepancy, and lack of investigating of non-sexual HIV transmission among other problems.
National Aids and STIs Control Programme said the new study is “flawed”, lacks proper peer review and was probably influenced by doctors opposing circumcision, a medical lobby that sees the cut as abuse. “WHO experts recommended male circumcision in 2007 after many scientific studies. Such critics have always been there since circumcision began,” said Nascop’s head of HIV prevention Dr Peter Cherutich.
However, male circumcision manager at Nascop Dr Athanasius Ochieng said the science behind the cut is irrefutable. “Hardening of foreskin helps in removal of white blood cells that make uncircumcised men more vulnerable to HIV.”
He says the two dissenting researchers never declared their interest as required, yet one had close relationship with doctors opposing circumcision. Mass circumcision campaigns in Africa continue to receive millions in funding from leading organisations, including WHO and Unicef. At least 400,000, men mostly in Nyanza ,have been circumcised in Kenya since the drive was launched four years ago.
Senior manager for Male Circumcision Consortium in Kenya Dr Mores Loolpapit said in West Africa, where nearly all men are circumcised, HIV prevalence has never exceeded 6 per cent. “But in Southern Africa where most men are not, the frequency has always been more than 10 per cent,” he said. The Kenyan researchers said circumcision has more benefits beyond HIV, including reduction of cases of cervical cancer in women. They also said it gives men better hygiene and lowered risk of acquiring other STIs like Herpes.