How Not To Cut HIV Rates

From Bloomberg News:

Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- On a typical day, Robert Bailey has 20 to 30 men waiting to be circumcised at his clinic in Kisumu, Kenya. The men are enduring the pain because they don't want to get AIDS.

Since a study by Bailey in 2006 found the operation drops the HIV infection rate in men by 60 percent, the procedure most often performed at birth has become a popular elective surgery among grown men in southern Africa. The push has been fueled by $16 million from the U.S. for clinics, personnel and procedures, funding expected to double this year, and $10.8 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The operation, in which skin covering the end of the penis is removed, may help lower infections among men of the traditionally uncircumcised Luo tribe by more than two-thirds, to 5 percent, said Bailey in a telephone interview July 14 from the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society Clinic he runs. Widespread use could prevent 5.7 million African infections and 3 million deaths over 20 years, according to the United Nations. [more]

While I appreciate what Dr. Bailey is trying to accomplish, I doubt it will work. In fact, I predict it will actually increase HIV rates among these men. Why? Because they will view it as permission to continue and accelerate their promiscuous behavior.

It's the same principle as low-fat food. If you want to lose weight, low-fat drinks, snacks and sweets are rarely much help. The reason for this is that we see "low-fat" and give ourselves permission to eat twice as much. It's an unconscious process most of the time, but real nonetheless.

We should also note that the men showing up to be circumcised are probably not living in faithful, monogamous relationships. If they were, there would be no need to go through this pain because their chances of getting HIV (and a variety of other diseases) would be minuscule. Promotion of such behavior helped Uganda drop its HIV rates by 70% in recent years.

Despite the proven success, few other nations are interesting in copying Uganda's methods. Why? In their view, anything that stands in the way of maximum sexual pleasure is unacceptable. They seek the post-modern Holy Grail: complete sexual freedom without negative consequences.

As with those who sought the real Holy Grail for the wrong reasons, they will likely find only pain, suffering, and eventually death.

No comments: