Health & Medicine

Circumcision and AIDS in Uganda

This story is a part of

Human Needs

This story is a part of

Human Needs

In Uganda, most men aren't circumcised. But many men are getting the surgery as adults. It's largely because of recent research that suggests circumcised men have a 60% reduced risk of contracting HIV.

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Godfrey Kigozi oversees the male circumcision studies at the Rakai health center. He says they're now offering the procedure to all men in this rural community and the response has been overwhelming.

The surgery's free. It's paid for by the US government, under President Bush's program for AIDS treatment and prevention. The men also receive about $3 to compensate them for losing a day or two of work.

Not everyone's eager to get the surgery. Many find the idea of circumcision alien, even a little threatening.

Circumcision is also a religious and cultural issue. And that makes it sensitive for public health officials. Dr. Sam Zaramba, of Uganda's Ministry of Health says he'd like to launch a national campaign to get more men here circumcised ... as other African countries have done.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, however, has some reservations. He's been a major supporter of Uganda's prevention strategy -- the one that emphasizes abstinence, faithfulness and condom use. But he doesn't support male circumcision.

HIV experts say some of Museveni's concerns are warranted. Circumcision doesn't provide complete protection. Doctors say men still need to use condoms.... and they still need to reduce the number of sexual partners. There's a lot of information to communicate. And getting the message right is important.

Isaak Simba and his band mates call themselves the Circ Squad. Simba says they all got circumcised last summer and they wrote this song to answer some common questions.

"Everyone asks you the question, so doesn't it hurt, so what, I have to put on a dress, and the thing is, everything is in the song. If you take your time, and listen carefully, you'll get everything there, because we advise you accordingly."

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