Description of adverse events among adult men following voluntary medical male circumcision: Findings from a circumcision programme in two provinces of South Africa

PLoS One. 2021 Aug 17;16(8):e0253960. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253960. eCollection 2021.


Background: Clinical trials showed strong evidence that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) reduces the acquisition of HIV among heterosexual men by up to 60%. However, VMMC uptake in East and Southern Africa remains suboptimal, with safety concerns identified as a barrier to uptake. We investigated the occurrence and severity of adverse events (AEs) in a routine VMMC programme implemented in Gauteng and North West provinces of South Africa.

Methods: We describe the frequency and characteristics of AEs using routinely collected data from a VMMC programme implemented between 01 May 2013 and 31 December 2014. The surgical procedure was provided at fixed clinics and mobile units in three districts. Adult men undertaking the procedure were referred for follow-up appointments where AEs were monitored.

Results: A total of 7,963 adult men were offered the VMMC service with 7,864 (98.8%) met the age and consent requirements for inclusion in a research follow-up after the surgical procedure and were followed-up for potential AEs. In total, 37 (0.5%) patients reported AEs post-surgery with infection [11 (29.7%)] and excessive bleeding [11 (29.7%)] commonly reported AEs. In terms of severity, 14 (37.8%) were classified as mild, 13 (35.1%) as moderate, and 10 (27.0%) as severe. Further, 32 (86.5%) of the AEs were classified as definitely related to the surgical procedure, with 36 (97.5%) of all AEs resolving without sequelae.

Conclusion: The VMMC programme was able to reach adult men at high risk of HIV acquisition. Reported AEs in the programme were minimal, with the observed safety profile comparable to clinical trial settings, suggesting that VMMC can be safely administered in a programmatic setting.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa, Southern / epidemiology
  • Circumcision, Male / adverse effects*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV-1
  • Humans
  • Infections* / epidemiology
  • Infections* / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Hemorrhage / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • South Africa
  • Voluntary Programs*