What is VMMC?

I do believe there is an element of cultural imperialism among members of circumcising groups (Americans, Muslims, Jews) who believe they have something important to share with “primitive” non-circumcising cultures.

—Tim Hammond
Human rights advocate

What is VMMC?

“Voluntary medical male circumcision” (VMMC) is the policy term for the world’s first mass surgical campaign, targeting Africans. Its goal is to create and maintain an 80% male circumcision rate throughout the African continent.

12 million men and boys have been circumcised in the campaign, largely on American taxpayer dollars through the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Because many men refuse circumcision, “early infant male circumcision” (EIMC) was added to the VMMC agenda in 2016.

The problem

It doesn’t help. It kills.

VMMC is often portrayed as a simple surgical solution to the African HIV/AIDS epidemic. Africans have found that this is not the reality. Many cite ethical and human rights issues within the campaign. Others observe that newly circumcised men and their partners are infected with HIV at a higher rate than those who were left alone.

Western public health agencies are endorsing VMMC to curb the spread of HIV by 50–60%. To that end, they are actively misinforming Africans that circumcision is protective against HIV (the “surgical condom” myth). This false security is a leading contributor to the HIV epidemic today. In Malawi, the national HIV rate is reported to have doubled from 10% to 20% in the first year VMMC was implemented. In Uganda where we conducted our investigation, Ministry of Health statistics show higher HIV rates now than before VMMC implementation.

African HIV rates had been on a downward trend that was reversed when VMMC was implemented. For the first time since the war on AIDS began, HIV is back on the rise. UNAIDS’ 2016 Prevention Gap Report states:

Declines in new HIV infections among adults have slowed, threatening further progress towards the end of the AIDS epidemic. Since 2010 [shortly after VMMC roll-out], the annual number of new infections among adults has remained static.

A Lancet article conveyed the tone of the 2016 International AIDS Conference:

[T]he mood was sombre as the goal of an end to AIDS receded.

Few have called out the probable cause of the unprecedented rise in new HIV infections that is plaguing sub-Saharan Africa today.

The Western public health community has yet to acknowledge the harm that VMMC is causing to its subjects, their partners whose HIV risk may be increased, and non-medically circumcised men exposed to the misinformation that circumcision provides substantial protection against HIV. Many have become infected or died of AIDS believing they were protected by circumcision.