THE pros and cons of introducing medical male circumcision as one of Papua New Guinea’s HIV prevention strategies is still being tabled and debated.
A study conducted by the PNG Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) in conjunction with the University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales on “Women’s views on male circumcision as an HIV-prevention strategy in PNG” found that women were for and against the idea.
The research paper was presented at the 45th Medical Symposium in Port Moresby last week by researcher Martha Kupul from PNGIMR.
A background on male circumcision in PNG at the start of the presentation stated that male circumcision was practised for cultural and religious purpose in only some parts of PNG.
“Male circumcision in traditional context is dorsal slit (dorsal refers to the region of the back of any organ or structure), however, medical male circumcision requires the full removal of the foreskin,” the report said.
Ms Kupul said it was important to engage women’s views on this issue because women were sexual partners, mothers to sons and members of society with views and experiences.
A total of 133 interviews were conducted of which 48 were focus group discussions and 85 were in-depth interviews.
More that 175 women participated in a total of 37 interviews in 21 focus group discussions and 16 in-depth interviews.
The cut-off age was 16.
The research was conducted in Eastern Highlands, East Sepik, West New Britain and National Capital District.
The study found a majority of women were not aware of the relationship between male circumcision and its role in preventing HIV, while a minority of women who were aware of male circumcision as an HIV prevention strategy, were almost exclusively from NCD and were involved in some sort of HIV work or they had learnt about it from the media.
Most women did not know about self-circumcision either and some reported hearing stories of self-circumcision where they openly said their husbands or boyfriends had been cut.
“When asked about what they thought about introducing male circumcision to prevent HIV, most women were against it,” Ms Kupul said.
“These women came up with four main reasons as to why they would not allow the Government to introduce male circumcision to reduce HIV in PNG.
“Firstly, most women believed there would be an increase in promiscuity.
“Secondly, many women agreed that there would be a decrease in condom use because some men dislike using condoms and prefer unprotected sex, and they would assume they are already safe.
“Thirdly, many women mentioned that men would increase the number of sexual partners, and some women believed that a false sense of security would lead to an increase in sexual violence.”
She Ms Kupul said despite the fact that most women were against circumcision as an additional HIV prevention strategy, all women supported male circumcision for penile hygiene.
They wanted their partners to remain clean and healthy.
She concluded that male circumcision as a programme would have long-term impacts for women not just men.