Citizenship in a time of HIV: Understanding medical adult male circumcision in South Africa

Stream: Navigating Sexual Health: Professional, youth and MSM perspectives
Date: Friday, 1 April 2016
Time: 11.15 am – 1.00 pm


During public health crises, the rights of the individual are often considered secondary to the 'good' of the collective. In Sub-Saharan Africa medical adult male circumcision (MAMC), has been shown to reduce a man's risk of HIV infection by 60 per cent (when engaging in peno-vaginal sex). Thus experts have been compelled to consider the implications of mandatory MAMC in South Africa in a radical effort to curb the spread of the virus. However, this poses interesting ethical questions about the rights of the individual citizen versus the possible benefits of rolling out evidence-based interventions for general population health. Reporting on an arm of a larger study of the meanings of MAMC for HIV prevention in South Africa, in this paper we report on findings from semi-structured repeated interviews conducted with thirty urban-based men in Alexandria Informal Settlement in Johannesburg, focused on individual understandings of the use of mandatory MAMC as a possible nation-wide HIV prevention strategy. The participants had conflicting views of this strategy indicating support for a mandatory MAMC HIV prevention initiative due the perception that HIV remains a crisis in South Africa while at the same time believing that this strategy stands in strong contrast to the rights-based culture strongly propagated by the South African government that enshrines both the right to bodily integrity and traditionally-practiced circumcision. This has implications for public health messaging regarding the implementation and possible upscaling of MAMC for HIV prevention in South Africa.


Lynlee Howard-Payne (Presenter), University of the Witwatersrand
Dr Lynlee Howard-Payne is a psychology lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her area of expertise relates to critical public health psychology with regard to the qualitative investiagtion of sexual and reproductive health behaviour and interventions, specially HIV and STI prevention.