Promoting circumcision as a prophylactic against the spread of HIV/AIDs was a waste of government funds, a Ugandan bishop has warned.
Speaking to a 12 April 2012 gathering of the clergy of the Diocese of West Ankole, Bishop Yona Katoneene of the Diocese of West Ankole called upon the ministry of health to redirect funding from its campaign to encourage male circumcision to one that promotes abstinence.
The bishop did not oppose the government promotion of circumcision for reasons of hygiene and general health, but warned that its promotion to stop HIV/AIDS was ineffectual as it did not address the behaviors that led to the spread of the disease. And, he warned, it also encouraged people to engage in immoral behavior.
“After circumcision some people think that it is a ticket for one to engage in sex and this is likely to worsen the spread of HIV/AIDS in communities,” the bishop said, according to local press accounts of his speech.
The campaign to halt the spread of the disease by promoting abstinence education had worked, he said. However, overseas aid agencies had different priorities and were more ready to provide funds for their pet projects. The bishop said that if money spent on advertising circumcision were spent instead on purchasing bicycles to allow youth workers to travel between villages to educate young people about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and to promote abstinence, the disease could be contained.
Circumcision as a prophylactic against HIV/AIDs has a mixed record in Africa. In 2010, the chairman of Malawi’s National Aids Commission, Archbishop Bernard Malango said his group would not recommend the government adopt circumcision as a government policy. He said that a comparison of the rates of infection in Muslim districts, where most men are circumcised, to that of Christian areas of Malawi, where circumcision is not practiced, showed no difference in the rate of infections.
“We have no scientific evidence that circumcision is a sure way of slowing down the spread of AIDS,” Dr. Mary Shaba, the government’s chief HIV/AIDS officer said at the press conference with Archbishop Malango.
However, a 2006 report from the U.S. government’s National Institute of Health found that male circumcision significantly halts the spread of the disease.