THE WORLDPOST
07/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rumors, confusion hinder battle against HIV in Cameroon

An educational poster in Africa provides facts on HIV/AIDS.

Health studies have shown that male circumcision can reduce the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

In Africa, several governments have implemented male circumcision as part of their AIDS prevention strategies. Most recently, Botswana launched a massive circumcision drive targeting nearly half a million men.

Steve Jackson works with COPAAP, an organization that fights the spread of HIV/AIDS in Cameroon. He writes on his blog to discuss the dangers of relying extensively on circumcision.

Circumcision is a red herring

I work for an organization in Cameroon that supports local villages in helping to stop the spread of AIDS while assisting people living with HIV/AIDS to hopefully have as normal lives as possible.

If you can imagine what we are battling with in terms of getting messages across — I have some issues with ABC (abstinence, be-faithful, condom).  Personally I'd go with condom, condom, condom and let people choose their own ideals — but I can work with this. Now even within that area I can show you this picture. This is proudly on display at a local Catholic church.  And people believe this stuff. Recently the Pope decided to pay this country a visit and told everyone that condoms were making the problem worse.

On top of that you have traditional healers — recently my boss told me of one that had claimed to have cured two AIDS patients. It turns out where it said "negative" on their medical records was next to Malaria not HIV. But these claims and rumors take hold. I haven't seen it here but we've all heard African tales of how having sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS. [...]

I am saying this without any doubt at all — if you tell people that circumcision helps reduce the risk of AIDS then they will think they can have sex without danger.  The problem would get worse. [...]There are already so many rumors and half truths and downright lies that people are entirely confused. People are already willing to risk sex with people they know to carry the disease.  You start telling them a simply surgical procedure will make them less likely to contract the disease and it will soon be widely understood that you CAN NOT become infected if you are circumcised.

And how would that circumcision take place?  It's not like there are mobile, sterile, clinics on hand.  How long before it becomes an extension of the body mutilation that is practiced here?

In other words — how long before circumcision is carried out by a traditional healer, witch doctor, family member etc — in entirely unhygienic circumstances? Hugely painful for an adult — hugely dangerous for a child. [...]

If you want to fight AIDS then you need foolproof methods.  It's not enough to just lower the odds. [...]

Truth is there [are] already perfectly good, cheap ways to defeat the spread of HIV/AIDS, we just have to stop the misinformation (much of it coming from the developed world) and commit to teaching the same methods and same practices.

There are already enough red herrings without introducing another one.

To read more, see the original post.

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In Africa, several governments have implemented male circumcision as part of their AIDS prevention strategies. A Worldfocus contributing blogger in Cameroon who works to fight HIV/AIDS discusses the dangers of relying extensively on circumcision, given widespread rumors and misinformation. http://worldfocus.org/files/2009/06/th_africa_aids.jpg

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