Male circumcision and HIV in PNG

Researchers investigating male circumcision as a possible way to reduce HIV transmission in Papua New Guinea will present their work at a seminar and discussion panel at Cairns Base Hospital on Thursday 22 September.

Ms Rachael Tommbe from Pacific Adventist University, Papua New Guinea, will present the research with Professor John McBride and Dr David MacLaren from JCU as part of James Cook University’s Celebrating Research@JCU series.

“Papua New Guinea has more than ninety per cent of all the cases of HIV in Oceania,” Professor McBride said. “This disease is having a major impact on our nearest neighbour’s social, economic, educational, and cultural development.

“This is also a critical issue for our region. PNG is only an hour and a half flight from Cairns and just four kilometres from Saibai Island.”

Dr MacLaren said male circumcision might be an additional way to reduce HIV transmission, but there was little information on current circumcision practices or whether this would be an acceptable approach in PNG.

“We have been working in partnership with Pacific Adventist University and Divine Word University in PNG to explore whether increasing the number of men who are circumcised would be an acceptable and feasible way to reduce HIV transmission,” he said.

The researchers have talked with over 860 men in four locations and found that only about 10% of men were circumcised, but that a further 47% had less complete forms of circumcision where the foreskin had been cut but not removed.

“One of the issues that emerged is that the majority of men we spoke to had the procedure outside any health facility, most often done by friends or relatives,” Dr MacLaren said. “Many of the procedures differ from a classic circumcision and we now need to investigate whether these types of cuts help reduce HIV transmission.”

The researchers have also interviewed 510 women on whether male circumcision was a good thing for their partners and their children. Some were happy with the health benefits of male circumcision while some worried that men might feel less at risk of HIV and so be less likely to practise safe sex.

The research will be presented at a seminar and panel discussion at Cairns Base Hospital from 4.30pm to 7.00pm on Thursday, 22 September.

Admission is free but participants are asked to register beforehand. To register, go to www.jcu.edu.au/cr11/

Issued September 14, 2011

Media enquiries: E. linden.woodward@jcu.edu.au T. 07 4042 1007