Africa, AIDS, and Circumcision

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Creative Commons License photo credit: jurvetson

While circumcision has been a sometimes-controversial practice, there is recent evidence to suggest that the practice may have certain health benefits. In particular, a recent effort has effectively reduced the incidence of AIDS in a South African township through circumcision.





This news comes after a campaign launched to help reduce AIDS infection. The campaign offered circumcision to men in a South African village where AIDS had spread to a large percentage of the population. New cases of HIV fell by 76 percent in men after the program was launched.

The study didn’t produce information about the reduction in new HIV cases among females in the population. It looked at a region with a population of 110,000, where 20,000 or more circumcisions had been done.

This comes on the tails of trials in three African nations – Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa – back in 2006. Those trials suggested that simply removing the foreskin reduced the risk that a man would bet HIV by half. Over the long term analysis, the benefit is statistically closer to 60 percent.

This is particularly encouraging. Circumcision is an especially inexpensive and apparently effective way to prevent the spread of HIV.

The AIDS epidemic has hit Sub-Saharan Africa especially hard. Of the 33 million people who are HIV positive, over 20 million live in the region.

Other studies recently released show us some other interesting news about circumcision and AIDS:

  • One study suggests that men who are circumcised experience greater pleasure in sex and found it easier to orgasm than before they were circumcised.
  • Men in Sub-Saharan Africa who are circumcised have the same rate of practicing safe sex as uncircumcised men, taking that out of the AIDS equation.

Why it works

The idea behind circumcision and preventing HIV spread is that the inner foreskin is one of the easiest entry points for the virus. The inner foreskin has large quantities of Langerhans cells – which are the cells that AIDS is most likely to connect to and penetrate.

It seems clear now that circumcision can help to stem the growth of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, and that more and more Africans are willing to undergo the procedure.

So, what do you think? Infant circumcision aside, is it a good idea to offer circumcision to adult men in Africa?


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