Medical male circumcision and HIV risk: perceptions of women in a higher learning institution in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Sex Health. 2013 May;10(2):112-8. doi: 10.1071/SH12067.


Background: Medical male circumcision (MMC) reduces the risk of HIV acquisition for men in heterosexual encounters by 50-60%. However, there is no evidence that a circumcised man with HIV poses any less risk of infecting his female partner than an uncircumcised man. There may be an additional risk of HIV transmission to female partners during the 6-week healing period and if condoms are used less often after circumcision. The aim was to explore young women's perspectives on MMC, with a view to developing clear messages about the limitations of MMC in reducing women's HIV risk.

Methods: We explored women's perspectives on MMC in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with a sample of 30 female tertiary students via four focus groups (two for women only; two mixed gender).

Results: In all groups, women communicated a thorough understanding of the partial efficacy of MMC, but believed that others would not understand this concept. Participants noted that MMC affords no direct benefit to women. Most thought that MMC would increase females' risk of contracting HIV, that circumcised men may engage in risky behaviours and that men would increase their number of sexual partners after circumcision. Participants believed that condom use would decrease after MMC and speculated that men would have sex during the healing period, which could further compromise women's sexual health.

Conclusion: The concerns expressed by women regarding MMC highlight the need for including women in the dialogue about MMC and for clarifying the impact of MMC on HIV risk for women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Circumcision, Male / methods*
  • Circumcision, Male / psychology*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Primary Prevention
  • Risk
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Women / psychology*
  • Young Adult