Female Circumcision and HIV Infection in Tanzania: for Better or for Worse?. Rebecca Y. Stallings, 2 Statisticus Consultoris, USA and Emilian Karugendo, National Bureau of Statistics, Tanzania. Data Source.
Rebecca Y. Stallings,
2 Statisticus Consultoris, USA and Emilian Karugendo,
National Bureau of Statistics, Tanzania
This analysis and its findings are derived from the 2003-04 Tanzania HIV/AIDS Indicator Survey (the THIS), which is currently available for public use. The first author received permission from the National Bureau of Statistics in Tanzania to conduct this work prior to the official release of the data set to the public.
Female circumcision, also referred to as female genital cutting (FGC) and female genital mutilation (FGM), is most prevalent in Africa. The practice has been linked to obstetrical and gynecological problems in addition to mental and physical trauma that may result from the more severe forms of the procedure and has hence been widely condemned for both ethical and health reasons by the World Health Organization and other entities involved with Human Rights.
WHO has defined 4 types of circumcision:
Excision (cutting of both the clitoris and part or all of the labia minora)
Infibulation (cutting of all external genitalia with stitching of the vaginal opening)
Other less radical forms including pricking and piercing
It has been estimated that 80-85% of female circumcision is either type I or II.
(ref. K.E.Kun, 1997, Intl J Gynecology and Obstetrics)
Partial/complete occlusion of the vagina
Greater risk of inflammation/bleeding during intercourse
Disruption of the genital epithelium/exposure to blood/penile abrasions which have been reported to enhance risk of HIV infection
Painful/difficult vaginal penetration
Increased practice of anal intercourse, which has been shown to enhance the efficiency of HIV transmission
Higher incidence of obstructed labor and tearing
Higher risk of blood transfusion; blood supply may not be optimally screened for HIV
Use of unsterilized instruments to perform the female circumcision procedure
Exposure to blood contaminated by the virus
While WHO and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics publicly postulated that female circumcision might be a risk factor for HIV infection as long ago as 1992, very little research has been published to date examining this relationship.
In light of the alarming spread of HIV among females in a number of African countries where female circumcision continues to be practiced, the dearth of work on this question is somewhat perplexing.
3 published studies were identified which looked at the association between female circumcision and HIV infection;
All 3 studies were conducted in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania
S.E.Msuya et al, 2002, Tropical Medicine and Intl Health
0.64 [95% CI = 0.26<RR<1.57]; N=379
S.H.Kapiga et al, 2002, JAIDS
1.29 [95% CI =0.88<RR<1.90];N=312
E.Klouman et al, 2005, Tropical Medicine and Intl Health
1.19 [95% CI=0.45<RR<3.16];N=392
Households selected: 6901
…response rate 98.5%
Eligible women 7154
…response rate 95.9%
…interview & HIV test result 6061
…response rate for both 84.7%
Marriage and sexual activity
Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases
Potential exposure to contaminated blood
The crude relative risk of HIV infection among women reporting to have been circumcised versus not circumcised was
0.51 [95% CI =0.38<RR<0.70]
The power (1 – ß) to detect this difference is 99%
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