Brewer, D. D. (2011). Scarification and male circumcision associated with HIV infection in Mozambican children and youth. WebmedCentral EPIDEMIOLOGY, 2(9):WMC002206 (http://www.webmedcentral.com/article_view/2206).
Background: In sub-Saharan Africa, significant numbers of children with seronegative mothers are HIV infected. Similarly, substantial proportions of African youth who have not had sex are infected with HIV. These findings imply that some African children and youth acquire HIV through blood exposures in unhygienic healthcare, cosmetic care, and rituals. In prior research, male and female Kenyan, Lesothoan, and Tanzanian adolescents and virgins who were circumcised were more likely to be infected with HIV than their uncircumcised counterparts.
Methods: I examined the association between male circumcision, scarification, and HIV infection in Mozambican children and youth with data from the 2009 Mozambique AIDS Indicator Survey. I excluded from analysis children under age 12 who had HIV seropositive biological mothers. I coded children and youth as exposed to circumcision or scarification only if it had occurred within the prior 10 years.
Results: Circumcised and scarified children and youth were two to three times more likely to be infected with HIV than children and youth who had not been circumcised or scarified, respectively. Circumcision and scarification were each associated with HIV infection for both virgins and sexually experienced youth. Males circumcised by medical doctors were almost as likely to be infected as those circumcised by traditional circumcisers. Circumcision and scarification were also independently associated with HIV infection in males.
Conclusions: To determine modes of HIV transmission with confidence, researchers must employ more rigorous research designs than have been used to date in sub-Saharan Africa. In the meantime, Mozambicans and other Africans should be warned about all risks of blood-borne HIV transmission, including scarification and medical and traditional circumcision, and informed about how these risks can be avoided.