Male circumcision for protection against HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa: the evidence in favour justifies the implementation now in progress

Glob Public Health. 2015;10(5-6):639-66. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2014.989532. Epub 2015 Jan 23.


This article responds to a recent 'controversy study' in Global Public Health by de Camargo et al. directed at three randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of male circumcision (MC) for HIV prevention. These trials were conducted in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and published in 2005 and 2007. The RCTs confirmed observational data that had accumulated over the preceding two decades showing that MC reduces by 60% the risk of HIV infection in heterosexual men. Based on the RCT results, MC was adopted by global and national HIV policy-makers as an additional intervention for HIV prevention. Voluntary medical MC (VMMC) is now being implemented in 14 SSA countries. Thus referring to MC for HIV prevention as 'debate' and viewing MC through a lens of controversy seems mistaken. In their criticism, de Camargo et al. misrepresent and misinterpret current science supporting MC for HIV prevention, omit previous denunciations of arguments similar to theirs, and ignore evidence from ongoing scientific research. Here we point out the flaws in three areas de Camargo et al. find contentious. In doing so, we direct readers to growing evidence of MC as an efficacious, safe, acceptable, relatively low-cost one-off biomedical intervention for HIV prevention.

Keywords: HIV prevention; controversy studies; male circumcision; sub-Saharan Africa.

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Circumcision, Male*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / transmission*