HIV & Aids Alarmingly High Among SA Teens

Shocking statistics have been released revealing that on average 2 300 South African girls aged between 15 and 24 will contract HIV every week. The research shows that girls are four times more likely to contract HIV than their male counterparts. However, that statistics on HIV contraction for males of the same age group is still chilling.

The risk is higher for high school learners, according to Marina Rifkin, a Public Health Specialist at CareWorks, an HIV management organisation. Rifkin says that this age group is more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour, such as unprotected sex, as they do not yet feel comfortable negotiating the use of a condom with their partner.

“Sexually active young women are particularly vulnerable as they often engage in sexual relationships with older men. Research conducted by the Centre for the AIDS Programme Research in SA (Caprisa) shows a trend of girls contracting HIV from older men. The study found that both girls and boys on completion of Grade 7 remained HIV-negative. However, by the time they finished Grade 12 about 7-10% of girls were HIV-positive, yet most of the boys remained HIV-negative. This is because the girls were having sex with older men who were likely to already have been infected by the HIV virus,” says Rifkin.

“This age–sex disparity in HIV acquisition continues to sustain unprecedentedly high incidence rates, therefore preventing HIV infection in this age group is a pre-requisite for achieving an AIDS-free generation and attaining epidemic control.”

Rifkin goes on to explain that the age at which many of our country’s youth have their first sexual encounter is often far younger than 16 (the age of legal consent). According to her, teens can be sexually active at 14 and sometimes even younger.

“To date, voluntary HIV counselling and testing, promoting delay of sexual debut and correct and consistent condom use when engaging in sex have shown some success among the youth, but other prevention interventions such as voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) are crucial and shouldn’t be discounted,” says Rifkin.

The Role of Circumcision in HIV Prevention:

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Currently, South Africa is halfway toward the national target of circumcising 4,3 million males aged 15 to 49 by December 2016. With over 2 million men having been circumcised so far.

“The once-off 20 minute procedure reduces a man’s lifetime risk of HIV by up to 60% and it helps to prevent other STIs. VMMC also reduces the risk of penile cancer, and reduces the risk of acquiring the human papilloma virus (HPV) and, as a result, cervical cancer among the female partners of circumcised males,” explains Rifkin.

Lower HIV infection rates among circumcised men than among uncircumcised men has been consistently apparent in the research done in Orange Farm, South Africa. Models also suggest that VMMC scale-up would reduce HIV incidence in Eastern and Southern Africa by roughly 30-50% over 10 years.

“The take home message is that the risk reduction offered by circumcision is substantial and could reduce the immediate and long term risk for both young men and women. The world in which teenagers are growing up today is very different from that of their parents’ and grandparents’ youth. Compared with 20 years ago, young people are entering adolescence earlier than ever before and they want to explore their sexual selves,” notes Rifkin.

“That being said, young people also need help in preventing HIV and parents can play an important role in the prevention process. While it may be challenging to broach this topic, try to have an open discussion with your teenager about sex and the importance of protecting themselves from both unplanned pregnancy and HIV. Lay down all the options on the table, including the benefits of VMMC and give them the support and guidance they need during this transition period into adulthood,” says Rifkin.

To find out where you, your son, friend or partner, can undergo free VMMC: send a free ‘please call me’ to 0606 800 800 and a counsellor will get back to you. For more information about VMMC visit the VMMC media and information hub at www.mmcinfo.co.za.

10 Comments

  1. 19 February 2016 at 4:04 pm

    Many professionals have criticized the studies claiming that circumcision reduces HIV transmission. The investigators did not seek to determine the source of the HIV infections during their studies. They assumed all infections were heterosexually transmitted.

    Many HIV infections in Africa are transmitted by contaminated injections and surgical procedures. The absolute rate of HIV transmission reduction is only 1.3%, not the claimed 60%. Even if the claim were true, based on the studies, about 60 men had to be circumcised to prevent one HIV infection.

    Authorities that cite the studies have other agendas including political and financial. Research shows that circumcision causes physical, sexual, and psychological harm, reducing the sexual pleasure of both partners. This harm is ignored by circumcision advocates. Other methods to prevent HIV transmission (e.g., condoms and sterilizing medical instruments) are much more effective, much cheaper, and much less invasive. Even HIV/circumcision studies advise using condoms. With condoms circumcision adds no benefit to HIV prevention.

    Circumcision will not be “voluntary” when it is forced on children.

    • 8 March 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Ronald, thank you for your feedback. We are investigating this and will let you know as soon as we have an update. Kind Regards.

  2. 21 February 2016 at 12:30 am

    Yet more of the CUT men have HIV than the intact men, in 10 out of 18 countries for which USAIDS has figures. Don’t let them scare you into getting cut. Penile cancer is vanishingly rare, and even rarer in men with normal foreskins than cut men. Condoms are much better than cutting at protecting against STDs and HPV. Men, if you want to keep your foreskin (and it’s the best part), do so and be careful to use condoms whenever you have sex with someone who could possibly be infected.

    • 8 March 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Hugh, thank you for your feedback. We are investigating this and will let you know as soon as we have an update. Kind Regards.

  3. 21 February 2016 at 9:34 pm

    The ONLY controlled trial to date on female HIV acquisition and male circumcision (Wawer/Gray 2009 Uganda) showed that the men they cut infected their female partners 50% MORE often than the men they left intact did.

    • 8 March 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Ron, thank you for your feedback. We are investigating this and will let you know as soon as we have an update. Kind Regards.

  4. M. Thomas Frederiksen
    25 February 2016 at 5:25 pm

    The studies cited have been thoroughly debunked and discredited. It’s noteworthy that incidents of HIV and STIs in the USA, where male genital mutilation is common are multiples of the European rates. Similarly, other African countries that have been duped by these cultural imperialists have seen infection rates soar. Keep in mind that male genital mutilation is being sharply criticised in the USA and Europe. It is in this context that the mutilators are pushing MGM as an HIV panacea. Africans are being mutilated to provide an ideological fig leaf for MGM in America. You’re being used in the worst way imaginable, and will end up with HIV to boot, as MGM provides no protection… only a false sense of security that discourages the use of condoms.

    • 8 March 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Hi M. Thomas, thank you for your feedback. We are investigating this and will let you know as soon as we have an update. Kind Regards.

  5. Mark
    29 February 2016 at 6:17 pm

    Circumcision is a dangerous distraction in the fight against AIDS.

    From a USAID report:
    “There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence—in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher.”
    http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/CR22/CR22.pdf
    (this will include men who were circumcised tribally rather than medically, but they and their partners may also believe themselves to be protected, and the whole rationale for the RCT’s into female-to-male transmission was a purported correlation between high rates of male circumcision and low rates of HIV)

    It seems highly unrealistic to expect that there will be no risk compensation. The South African National Communication Survey on HIV/AIDS, 2009 found that 15% of adults across age groups “believe that circumcised men do not need to use condoms”. This figure seems to have been unchanged in 2012.
    http://www.info.gov.za/issues/hiv/survey_2009.htm
    http://www.hst.org.za/sites/default/files/ZANationalHIVCommunicationSurvey2012.pdf
    http://jhhesa.org/sites/default/files/hiv_survey.pdf

    It is unclear if circumcised men are more likely to infect women. The only ever randomized controlled trial into male-to-female transmission showed a 54% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised:
    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60998-3/abstract

    ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, and especially Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery seems likely to cost African lives rather than save them.

    Europeans don’t circumcise, South Americans don’t circumcise, Australians and New Zealanders used to circumcise but stopped, and less than half of North Americans circumcise. Why should Africans circumcise?

    Recent news from Botswana:
    “There is an upsurge of cases of people who got infected with HIV following circumcision.”
    http://www.gabzfm.com/circumcised-men-still-run-risk-hiv-infection

    and from Zimbabwe:
    “SOME circumcised men are contracting HIV and Aids after ditching the use of condoms, under a misguided belief that male circumcision (MC) would prevent them from getting infected”
    http://www.thestandard.co.zw/2013/11/10/circumcised-men-indulge-risky-sexual-behaviour/

    and from Kenya:
    “Push for male circumcision in Nyanza fails to reduce infections”
    http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000093293&story_title=push-for-male-circumcision-in-nyanza-fails-to-reduce-infections

    from Uganda:
    “A new study of 314 female sex workers (FSWs) in Makindye division found that more than half of respondents falsely believe that once a man is circumcised, protection is not necessary during sex.”
    http://www.observer.ug/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=33658

    and from Malawi:
    “According to the report, HIV rates have doubled in Malawi moving from 10% to 20% in 1 year. Strangely, this has been the same period that Malawians have been manipulatively forced to go through circumcision in masses with the promise that it reduces the contraction of HIV.”
    http://malawi24.com/2015/08/04/circumcision-disaster-malawi-hiv-infection-rate-doubles/

    • 8 March 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Hi Mark, thank you for your feedback. We are investigating this and will let you know as soon as we have an update. Kind Regards.