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S Afr Med J. 2012 May 23;102(6):571-3.

Low acceptability of medical male circumcision as an HIV/AIDS prevention intervention within a South African community that practises traditional circumcision.

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  • 1Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town.



Traditional circumcision is practised among some indigenous tribes in South Africa (SA) such as the Xhosa. Recent experimental evidence has demonstrated the benefits of male circumcision for the prevention of HIV infection in heterosexual men. The acceptability of circumcision as a biomedical intervention mirroring an ingrained cultural practice, as well as the age and extent of the procedure, are poorly understood.


Men aged 15 - 42 years were recruited in a peri-urban settlement near Cape Town. Participants completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing self-reported circumcision status, context and reasons for previous or planned circumcision, and willingness to undergo medical circumcision for themselves or their sons. Results were confirmed by clinical examination. The most recent HIV test result was compared with circumcision status.


Of the 199 men enrolled, 148 (74%) reported being traditionally circumcised; of the 51 not circumcised, 50 were planning the traditional procedure. Among men self-reporting circumcision, 40 (27%) had some or all of the foreskin remaining. The median age at traditional circumcision was 21 years (interquartile range 19 - 22 years). While knowledge of the preventive benefit of circumcision was reported by 128 men (66%), most were unwilling to undergo medical circumcision or allow their sons to do so, because of religion/culture, notions of manhood, and social disapproval.


Almost all men in this study had undergone or were planning to undergo traditional circumcision and were largely opposed to the medically performed procedure. In the majority, traditional circumcision had occurred after the mean age of sexual debut and almost a quarter were found to have only partial foreskin removal. To ensure optimal HIV prevention benefits, strategies to facilitate complete foreskin removal prior to sexual debut within traditional circumcision practices require further attention.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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