TRADITIONAL circumcision is not the best way to prevent HIV/Aids infection, and those who say so are putting lives at risk.

Despite research showing that full circumcision reduces the risk of infection by 76%, the Eastern Cape health department strongly urges traditionalists to continue using condoms.

Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo was reacting to analysis published by the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) this month.

The institute stated: “Research has shown that voluntary medical circumcision, in which the entire foreskin is removed, can reduce men’s risk of acquiring HIV from female partners by up to 76%.

“Circumcision in South Africa is expected to prevent one million infections by 2025.”

But Kupelo said: “We are still promoting the use of condoms even with safe circumcision.

“We understand that circumcision reduces the risk of infection, but you are still at risk if you are circumcised.”

His view was backed by DA MPL and health spokesman John Cupido, who said World Health Organisation research showed that circumcision prevented HIV infection by “only 50% to 60%”.

“Condoms, correctly used, prevent HIV infection by over 90%,” he said.

The SAIRR juxtaposed the problem of poor condom distribution with a high rate of circumcision between 2011 and 2012.

It reported that the target for condom distribution over that time was missed by 60% after a lawsuit against the Treasury Department delayed the awarding of a tender.

There were also delays in provinces with registering approved service providers, some of whom were unable to meet demand.

Only 300-million condoms were distributed, 700-million short of the one billion target.

In comparison, the SAIRR stated 350 000 men were circumcised in 2011, which was only 30% target.

The SAIRR report states that by 2009, 42% of men aged 15 to 59 were circumcised in South Africa. The breakdown by province is:

Mpumalanga 77%; Eastern Cape 73%; Gauteng 46%; Western Cape 42%; Mpumalanga 36%; Free State 34%; North West 33%; KwaZulu-Natal 18%; and Northern Cape 17%. Condom use among the sexually active population grew from 36.1% of men and 27.6% of women in 2002 to a high in 2008 when 67.4% of men and 64.8% of women used condoms. —