International AIDS Society


Female circumcision and HIV infection in Tanzania: for better or for worse?

Stallings R.Y.1, Karugendo E.2

Introduction: It has been postulated that female circumcision might increase the risk of HIV infection either directly, through the use of unsterile equipment, or indirectly, through an increase in genital lacerations or the substitution of anal intercourse. The authors sought to explain an unanticipated significant crude association of lower HIV risk among circumcised women [RR=0.51; 95% CI 0.38,0.70] in a recent survey by examining other factors which might confound this crude association.
Methods: Capillary blood was collected onto filter paper cards from a nationally representative sample of women age 15 to 49 during the 2004 Tanzania Health Information Survey. Eighty-four percent of eligible women gave consent for their blood to be anonymously tested for HIV antibody. Interview data was linked via barcodes to final test results for 5753 women. The chi-square test of association was used to examine the bivariate relationships between potential HIV risk factors with both circumcision and HIV status. Restricting further analyses to the 5297 women who had ever had sexual intercourse, logistic regression models were then used to adjust circumcision status for other factors found to be significant.
Results: By self-report, 17.7 percent of women were circumcised. Circumcision status varied significantly by region, household wealth, age, education, years resident, religion, years sexually active, union status, polygamy, number of recent and lifetime sex partners, recent injection or abnormal discharge, use of alcohol and ability to say no to sex. In the final logistic model, circumcision remained highly significant [OR=0.60; 95% CI 0.41,0.88] while adjusted for region, household wealth, age, lifetime partners, union status, and recent ulcer.
Conclusions: A lowered risk of HIV infection among circumcised women was not attributable to confounding with another risk factor in these data. Anthropological insights on female circumcision as practiced in Tanzania may shed light on this conundrum.

The 3rd IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment
Abstract no. TuOa0401

Suggested Citation
"StallingsR.Y., et al. Female circumcision and HIV infection in Tanzania: for better or for worse?. Oral Abstract Sessions: The 3rd IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment: Abstract no. TuOa0401"