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Objective. To investigate the nature of male circumcision and its relationship to HIV infection.
Methods. Analysis of a sub-sample of 3 025 men aged 15 years and older who participated in the first national populationbased survey on HIV/AIDS in 2002. Chi-square tests and
Wilcoxon rank sum tests were used to identify factors associated with circumcision and HIV status, followed by a logistic regression model.
Results. One-third of the men (35.3%) were circumcised. The factors strongly associated with circumcision were age >50, black living in rural areas and speaking SePedi (71.2%) or
IsiXhosa (64.3%). The median age was significantly older for blacks (18 years) compared with other racial groups (3.5 years), p <0.001. Among blacks, circumcisions were mainly
conducted outside hospital settings. In 40.5% of subjects, circumcision took place after sexual debut; two-thirds of the men circumcised after their 17th birthday were already
sexually active. HIV and circumcision were not associated (12.3% HIV positive in the circumcised group v. 12% HIV positive in the uncircumcised group). HIV was, however,
significantly lower in men circumcised before 12 years of age (6.8%) than in those circumcised after 12 years of age (13.5%, p=0.02). When restricted to sexually active men, the difference that remained did not reach statistical significance (8.9% v. 13.6%, p=0.08.). There was no effect when adjusted for possible confounding.
Conclusion. Circumcision had no protective effect in the prevention of HIV transmission. This is a concern, and has implications for the possible adoption of the mass male
circumcision strategy both as a public health policy and an HIV prevention strategy.
South African Medical Journal Vol. 98 (10) 2008: pp. 789-794