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Last Updated: Friday, 1 September 2006, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
To cut or not to cut?
Bas-relief in the tomb of Ankhmahor (Wellcome Institute)
A battle is developing around the bit of skin at the end of the penis. And it is a matter of life or death.

Should routine male circumcision be introduced to stop the spread of HIV? Or should the practice be completely banned?

Research suggesting that male circumcision could drastically reduce the spread of HIV in Africa has been in the spotlight recently. However, a group of doctors and academics are currently lobbying against the practice.

Is circumcision common in your community? Is it an important ritual, or something you oppose? Would reports that suggest circumcision reduces the risk of HIV encourage you to be circumcised, or to have your children circumcised? Do you have access to the procedure? Do you know what it involves?

Send us your views and experiences using the form on the right. Or you can send us an SMS text message to +44 77 86 20 20 08. If you would like to take part in the Africa Have Your Say radio programme on Wednesday 30 August at 1600 GMT, please include a telephone number. It will not be published.

This debate has now ended. Thank you for your comments.

The universal circumcision experiment has been tried before, in the United States. The results? Most sexually active American men are circumcised and the United States has among the highest per-capita HIV infection rate among industrialized countries. Some preventative effect! Modifying one's sexual behaviour is a far better preventative of HIV than cosmetic surgery.
Jorge, Chicago, US

People advocating mass circumcision as a means of slowing down the HIV pandemic, are basing their assumptions on one or two studies that were so flawed that reputable medical journals refused to publish them. We know that circumcision of adults deprives them of the most sensitive erogenous tissue in their bodies. Circumcision of infants and children not only does the same but is a major physical and psychological trauma with life-long adverse side effects. The only really safe method of AIDS prevention is condom use. We have been told that Africans are averse to using condoms, so if they, as consenting adults wish to be circumcised, they have the right to request this. However we have no right to carry out a painful procedure on infants and children whereby healthy and functional highly enervated tissue is removed from their bodies without their consent. Rather these children should be spared the trauma of circumcision and be educated to use condoms and practice sex responsibly.
Pat Torngren, Cape Town, South Africa

Circumcision is practised in virtually every tribe in Ghana here but that hasn't insulated circumcised men against HIV/AIDS. I hope this is not one of the western propaganda to keep the disease spreading in Africa like bush fire. This information could rather incense circumcised men into having unprotected sex knowing they are less likely to get the disease, according to the research.
Patrick Ayumu, Accra, Ghana

I do not know of any children who have grown up and are angry that they were circumcised so i think that parents have to give their consent for the circumcision of their male kids at birth. However if it is to be done on a grown up a rationale has to be given and his consent must be sort.
Nshom Ernest Bah, Mbingo, Cameroon

We are created with a foreskin for a reason. Actually, for numerous reasons. Infection with HIV is not one of them. Responsible behaviour will reduce the possibility of infection, not removing the foreskin. Removing the foreskin does not induce responsible behaviour either. A responsible uncut man will not be infected. An irresponsible cut man will almost certainly be infected. Once again circumcision is about control of man, and is fear-based. Education and caring are what is required, not mutilation and neglect.
Chris Fick, Cape Town, South Africa

To circumcise or not to circumcise; this question has been raging for a while in Africa. While there is evidence that it can reduce the risk of contracting AIDS/HIV, as there is less chance of the foreskin ripping during sex, this could give the wrong message, as it doesn't ensure that the man will never contract AIDS/HIV. It also gives the wrong message to the men; in a continent struggling to achieve sexual equality as it is (the whole clean/dirty argument will become empathized). On top of this, there is strong evidence that removing the foreskin reduces sexual pleasure for men. Therefore, it would seem, while we are developing drugs and researching the virus, and producing results and better understanding, that we should carry on with this, rather than resort to more 'primitive' practices.
Sophia Alexander, London, England

The benefits of male circumcision can never be disputed. Besides being a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood with the cut as a physical reminder, it is common knowledge that the fore skin does hide so much dirt, even in young boys. It is therefore only common sense that the cut will certainly not increase the risk of infection but rather reduce the same! For the records, I am a circumcised Kikuyu man just like required of every male of age in my community and my son will certainly get circumcised when his time comes. I don't know why there is any controversy over the issue of circumcision since it has very different symbolism over these sides of the globe! And yes, we need not force communities which don't attach any value to circumcision to practice it since this would kill the essence and value we who practice it attach to it and that wouldn't be any good! In fact it would make me embarrassed, not so much as they have stolen our culture, but because it has been stolen by indifferent people!!!!!
Ndung'u wa Ndegwa, Kipipiri, Kenya

Some tribes in Africa practice male circumcision not because they want to reduce or stop HIV and aids but because it is their tradition and culture. The spread of HIV & AIDS can only be stopped or reduced by only being faith to one another if you married and if not abstinence.
Francis Chibwinja, Kitwe Zambia

Very important, very important! Now if it can even prevent HIV and AIDS, then it should be considered as a free treatment available to everyone. Apart from that not even said to be custom or culture but it should be an issue of good hygiene. I was circumcised when I was in my later 10's, but I would like it to be done when I was still a baby. In my culture it was believed that a man is not allowed to have sex until circumcised. Though some men are just there complete and I don't like it that way.
Arnaud Emmanuel Ntirenganya, Rwandan in Cameroon

Circumcision has been part and parcel of our society. Traditionally it involved both boys and girls but nowadays only boys take part in the same, at least from my community[Kikuyu]. It is an important rite of passage from childhood to adulthood and I support it if it involves boys only. I would have my boys doing it with or without the reports. Being a girl does not allow me to be around during the procedure but numerous books have the information anyway so I know how it is done through books especially when I am doing research on the peoples' customs and traditions in anthropology.
Esther Nduta, Nairobi Kenya

Thanks to the doctors and academics who do the research to find ways of reducing HIV. However, I am afraid there are so many Aids prevention measures that are being devised everyday. I do not know if circumcision will help in reducing the HIV rate. Otherwise the tribes that practice circumcision as part of their culture here in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa would have the lowest HIV rates. Are they planning to introduce routine circumcision for women too? We need to be sure that circumcision would not be another way of transmitting Aids!
Prossy Nannyombi, Entebbe, Uganda

Why would I have the most sensitive part of my penis removed on spurious medical grounds? And what right do I have to inflict the same on my son? Doing it to children should be illegal, the same way female genital cutting is illegal. Some of the minor forms of female genital cutting do less damage than male circumcision. In Africa, any partial solution, be it micro biocide, vaccine or circumcision will result in men having more unprotected sex. We know that condoms work, so why would millions of dollars be spent on examining surgery as a strategy? It is my honest opinion that the people behind these studies are more interested in promoting circumcision than they are in fighting Aids, and that their actions will result in the loss of African lives. There is also evidence showing a strong link between female circumcision and lower HIV rates, but no-one would suggest encouraging circumcision for women. I find it nonsensical that we're (quite rightly) doing all we can to stop all forms of female circumcision, yet male circumcision is being promoted.
Mark Lyndon, Manchester, UK

Statistics of those Muslims and non-Muslims have shown that male circumcision helps stop HIV. But in practice, the operation setup for HIV Negative males is enormous. How many doctors to cut how many persons in how many months/years - the impossibility will be seen only after opening a few pilot camps at select centres.
Dr George Pradhan, India

Circumcision 'reduces HIV risk'
25 Oct 05 |  Health
Aids risk 'cut by circumcision'
26 Mar 04 |  Health

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