Integration - HIV/AIDS

Male Circumcision: Another HIV Prevention Method Competing for Limited Funding?

Male circumcision, which has been shown to reduce a man’s risk of contracting
HIV by up to 65%, should be made available in countries highly affected by AIDS,
according to the WHO and UNAIDS. Used in addition to
other proven HIV prevention methods – especially those focused on protecting
women – circumcision is proving to be another effective weapon to fight the
spread of HIV; the latest tool in a growing arsenal of prevention methods that
will face limited prevention resources due to the large
abstinence-until-marriage spending requirement in PEPFAR. This earmark should be repealed to give countries that
have the most to gain by promoting circumcision adequate resources with which to
support this effort.

For male circumcision to make the largest impact in curbing the spread of
HIV/AIDS, it must be part of a broader campaign to prevent infection. The WHO
and UNAIDS have recommended that the procedure be offered in conjunction with
other prevention programs, including promotion of safer sex practices and condom
distribution. Because male circumcision has not been shown to be an effective
protective measure for women, it is crucial that it not replace elements of
prevention that are geared toward stemming the skyrocketing HIV infection rates
in women. Male circumcision’s impact on HIV prevention offers exciting new
possibilities for saving lives, but a procedure that can only help half of the
population is not enough. It must be part of a comprehensive prevention program
that empowers both men and women with the ability to protect themselves in the
best ways possible.

Comprehensive, evidence-based approaches to HIV prevention are the most
effective in curbing the spread of HIV, but they are also extremely hindered by
the abstinence-until-marriage spending requirement in PEPFAR. By limiting the
percentage of prevention funding that can be spent outside of
abstinence-until-marriage programs, PEPFAR constrains countries’ ability to
design programs tailored to their country needs, putting those programs most
likely to work out of reach of the people who need them. As new prevention
methods are discovered, including male circumcision and microbicides, the
abstinence-until-marriage spending requirement forces them to compete against
one another for an ever-shrinking supply of funds.

PAI urges Congress to pass the PATHWAY Act that would overturn the abstinence-until-marriage
earmark in PEPFAR. When the U.S. is ready to support male circumcision and other
evidence-based prevention methods – and we hope that will be soon – it must do
so with adequate resources.

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