Response to USAID

From: J. Steven Svoboda
Date: 01 May 2003
Time: 22:53:41

Following is the text of ARC’s recent press release in response to USAID’s false claims regarding circumcision and HIV/AIDS. Thanks to Dan Bollinger, John Geisheker, and a host of other dedicated activists for helping make this happen.

Attorneys for the Rights of the Child

2961 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
Fax/Phone 510-595-5550

USAID African Circumcision Proposal is Unethical and Violates UN Treaties

Agency proposes substituting an impractical human rights violation to slow a human tragedy

Berkeley, CA – “USAID’s plan to circumcise African males in an attempt to reduce the spread of HIV will put women at greater risk for contracting AIDS because many circumcised men, led to believe their surgery makes them invulnerable to the virus, will stop using condoms,” said J. Steven Svoboda, Executive Director, Attorneys for the Rights of the Child.

“Male infants should not have their sexuality damaged through circumcision because adults have not learned to use condoms,” Svoboda said. “Education, abstinence, and safe sex practices have helped curb AIDS in the rest of the world, and there is no reason to believe that these wouldn’t help in Africa, too.”

“Most troubling,” Svoboda noted, “USAID blames the vulnerability of mucous tissue for spreading HIV. This kind of thinking may pressure African village members to infibulate females, a cultural practice where labia are sewn shut, covering mucous tissue for alleged hygienic reasons. USAID claims to discourage this genital mutilation. Breast tissue is responsible for breast cancer, but we don’t remove this tissue from infants to prevent this disease.”

USAID’s plan for mass amputation of a portion of children’s genitals violates the 1990 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1997 European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine.

The U.S., with the highest circumcision rate in the world, has high rates of HIV/AIDS compared to Europe, where circumcision is rare, illustrating that USAID’s plan is doomed to fail.

Male infants should not be forced to undergo surgery to compensate for adult sexual misbehavior or for African health care workers’ failure to properly sterilize their medical equipment, a vector that is suspected in two-thirds of HIV cases. HIV transmission in Africa is an adult problem, a cultural mix of poor healthcare, unsafe sexual practices, and inefficient government programs. The AIDS crisis cries out for better medicine and better education, not amputation of healthy tissue from non-consenting children, a technique that has proven ineffective elsewhere.

Svoboda said, “For a U.S. agency, whose government has discouraged family planning overseas, to recommend infant genital surgery in countries where the standards of medical hygiene are themselves largely to blame for the spread of HIV is immoral, inhumane and hypocritical.”

ARC, is a Berkeley, California-based organization promoting genital integrity for infants worldwide.


Contact: J. Steven Svoboda, 510-595-5550