Dr. De Cock Praises The Cut

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Who would have guessed that the good Dr. Kevin M. De Cock, director of H.I.V./AIDS for the World Health Organization, would have been so presciently named? A study in Kenya and Uganda by the National Institutes of Health has found evidence that circumcision might reduce a man’s risk of contracting HIV from heterosexual sex by as much as fifty percent. Dr. De Cock reckons that men should not now assume that their circumcised penis has become a kind of magic bullet which they can shove around willy-nilly. Rather, it is, he says, “… a potentially important intervention.” Alas, his caution is correct.

The very same New York Times now trumpeting The Cut some years ago reported another study whose conclusion was quite the opposite. This one after studying almost the same number of men in the US as this more recent one studied in Kenya and Uganda, found that circumcision not only does not lead to lower rates of STDs but that their incidence is actually higher among the circumcised. Quite mysteriously, it also found that circumcised men were much likelier to engage in, to quote the NYT, ‘a varied repertoire of sexual practices, including oral sex, anal sex and masturbation.’ I wonder what Dr. De Cock has to say about all this and perhaps less pertinently, but more interestingly, whether he is circumcised or not.

To digress slightly: what kind of teasing was poor De Cock subjected to in school? I can just hear the jeering chorus, “De Cock, the Cock, De Cock, the Cock…” It must have been hell for the boy, and I am deeply ashamed that I should find it so funny at my age.

Anyway, hard on the heels of the pro-circumcision study, two of the larger HIV/AIDS funds are considering paying for The Cut in high-risk countries. Daniel Halperin, a Harvard HIV specialist extraordinaire, excitedly responded, “I have no doubt that as word of this gets around, millions of African men will want to get circumcised, and that will save many lives.” That is the kind of enthusiasm displayed by a man who got The Cut as an infant in a bright shiny hospital. Not as a teenager by a circumciser who declared the use of anesthetic to be unmanly as yours truly lay trouser-less, sweating onto the cold plastic of the hospital cot and praying to the gods for a last minute reprieve and failing that at least an injection of painkiller.

I really could not have guessed that my being tricked into the little Kiambu clinic was in fact a considerate attempt on the part of my father and uncle to reduce the number of Langerhans cells I had and thus potentially save me from future HIV infection. Yes, I was tricked, deceived, lied to, bamboozled, led astray, run amuck.

I had just completed my Certificate of Primary Education exams and found my dear father waiting in his car, a big smile on his face. “Would you like to go to town for an after-exam treat at Wimpy and then go visit your granddad’s clinic?” he asked, hugging me to him. A few hours and pints of blood later, I was a man.

Perhaps a twelve-year old man who had briefly fainted from blood loss, but a man nevertheless – and it should be noted that I took the procedure with nary a sound (this is a very important fact, perhaps the most important of all to those of you unused to male pride in enduring pain for no great purpose.) I was finally free of those troublesome Langerhans that had up to then called the underside of my foreskin home. I wish Dr. De Cock had been around then so that the procedure was paid for by American money, in a clinic that insisted on the use of anesthetic and kept me far from the trickery of my father who to this day chuckles every time we drive by the stone and corrugated iron building that used to house my late grandfather’s clinic.

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About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

8 Responses to Dr. De Cock Praises The Cut

  1. Congogirl says:

    The results of the two studies that you reference may conflict, but the one in Kenya and Uganda was halted because the results were so profoundly favorable that it was deemed unethical to continue to withhold the procedure from the men in the control arm of the study, if they wished to have it.

    This recent study corroborates the findings of another recent study conducted in South Africa.

    http://community.livejournal.com/hivnews/4120.html

    Unfortunately due to the disparity that already exists in HIV and STD prevalence in the US compared to South Africa or Uganda, results from the US-based study are not generalizable to the context of these other countries.

    The other point worth noting is that circumcision for any one man might not do anything. One could still contract HIV, depending on other risk factors. But on a population level, which is what WHO and other orgs are concerned with, it probably will reduce the incidence of HIV if as a large scale intervention it is properly implemented.

    ps. don’t get me wrong, I laughed about De Cock as well.

  2. Ntwiga says:

    Your blog disappeared from my aggregator when you moved: glad to have found it again.

    Interesting the parallels between your experience and mine – it seems that deceiving the initiatees is a key component of the event in current times as opposed to times gone when the trek to the river for a numbing pre-event dip in the freezing waters was a public – nay – celebrated event.

    – Steve

  3. keguro says:

    Perhaps we should have a forum where we share circumcision stories–and our everlasting fear of castration.

    Seriously!

    Steve, not so times gone. Reliable sources tell me the trip to the river is an option offered to my rural cousins.

    Does a hospital visit bear the same cultural and symbolic value as the months of training and counseling of times gone past? I have a sneaking suspicion that were we to engage this question, we might say some rather unsavory things about the ostensible link between “manhood” and “trauma.”

  4. Kamau says:

    What’s with that place in Kiambu?!!! I too had to go there to get the cut, unlike you Mato I was very eager to finally become a man and end years of my elder sisters taunting. I was one of the few in my fifth grade class to under go the cut. I was a terror, demeaning the others “boys” since I was a “man” while they were mere lowlifes

  5. Ian says:

    I did the trip to the river and it wasn’t that bad…except for the pain, which we weren’t supposed to show, but the adulation,respect(and treats) that came after it more than made up for it.

    It’s funny though because a friend of mine who’s worked in the AIDS industry(in the west, and yes, it is an industry, maybe our most profitable one) since 1994 says that the link with circumcision has been rubbished by scientists for ages. Talking about African men rushing out to get a circumcision(business idea maybe?), Didn’t most of us do it anyway as a matter of course?

  6. Ian says:

    Just came across your blog… and have been trying to read through it in one sitting but kichwa inaniuma sasa!

    Very interesting I have to say and, I think, (re)-awakens a need in me to explore some thoughts i’ve been having and focus my mind on some issues…(started working after university and that seems to have consumed my life…although funny enough, I work in media where I confront a lot of these issues on a daily basis(can’t see the wood for the trees kind of thing)) thanks for that.

    Will be back 🙂

  7. hash says:

    Damn happy to see your blog is back up (at it’s new home). I’ve been missing it.

  8. Anna says:

    Yes, but I suspect that the name has paid for itself now that he’s all grown up. With a name like that, what potential mate wouldn’t have high expectations?

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