Part of the interest in getting Google Alerts, at least as far as I am concerned, is that they provide diverse (if not surreally clashing) news items about the same topic. This week, I received a couple of links about male circumcision as HIV prevention strategy in low-resource, high HIV prevalence countries. A few years ago, three randomized controlled trials
in Africa indicated that being circumcised significantly reduced risk of female-to-male HIV transmission. Male circumcision was then all the rage for awhile, but soon slipped off the front pages as it passed from 'research innovation' to 'yet another intervention to be implemented.'
Some countries in Africa are making male circumcision part of their HIV prevention strategy, though informing/convincing men to have their foreskins removed for this purpose, and actually getting it done, has proven slow going. There is some movement to change this. The New York Times has an article
about new methods to speed the process of circumcision, complete with pictures of what to the untrained eye look (predictably?) like cock rings of a fairly utilitarian sort. The most promising of these devices seems to be the PrePex
, which basically involves putting a ring around your Johnson, and cutting off blood circulation to the foreskin, until the latter comes off 'like a fingernail' as one proponent so sensitively put it. Apparently the clinical trials on male circumcision and HIV gave birth to a growing industry in foreskin removing clamps, from China's somewhat sinister sounding Shang Ring to the exoticism of the Turkish Ali's Klamp, to the device that terrorized many a South African penis a few short years ago, the infamous Malaysian Tara KLamp. That is the new story: which plastic gadget most cost-effectively whips off the African foreskin?
The other story on my Google Alert really goes in another direction. The Citizen, a Tanzanian newspaper has an item entitled 'One Hacked to Death in Male Circumcision Confrontation
'. Apparently traditionalists in Tanzania are (very) opposed to the idea of medicalizing male circumcision and treating it similarly to an appendectomy; after all, circumcision in Africa is commonly viewed as a rite of passage for males, where the pain of circumcision is part of its meaning, and the act is part of a ritual performed by traditional practitioners. A crowd of those who have this 'old school' view of male circumcision confronted someone who was treating it more as a medical, disease prevention intervention, and things got ugly. Modernity meets tradition. So the clinical trials on HIV and male circumcision have not only given rise to plastic gadgets, but also some measure of inter-tribal conflict.
Labels: bioethics, ethics, HIV, male circumcision