12:00—1:30 PM
Center for Global Development, 1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Third Floor, Washington, DC

Circumcision, Information, and HIV Prevention

Center for Global Development
and The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies present
a Massachusetts Avenue Development Seminar (MADS)*

Rebecca L. Thornton
University of Michigan

With discussant
Mead Over
Center for Global Development

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Lunch will be served

Center for Global Development
1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Third Floor, Washington, DC
Closest Metro:
Dupont Circle (Red Line)

Abstract: HIV is a significant problem in sub-Saharan Africa and while many types of HIV prevention strategies have been adopted, there has been limited success with affecting behavior change. One recent potential HIV prevention strategy is male circumcision. Recent randomized control trials in South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda have provided strong evidence that male circumcision may provide an important way of reducing the spread of HIV infection. Despite this many countries have been slow at adopting male circumcision as a component of their HIV prevention strategies. One reason for this has been the concern that circumcised men learning this information may engage in riskier sex.

The information about circumcision and HIV transmission rates theoretically should have asymmetric effects on men who are already circumcised and on men who are not. Upon learning that circumcision reduces the rate of HIV transmission, men who are not already circumcised may increase safe sexual behavior because they may feel less protected against the risk of infection than before they received the information. In addition, they may increase their demand for circumcision - either for themselves or for their sons. Ultimately, how individuals respond to increases or decreases in perceived risk of HIV infection is an empirical question. No studies have yet examined the behavioral responses to the provision of this information.

The data used for the analysis is based on a random sample of 1250 rural Malawian men (ages 25-40) collected in late 2008. The men were asked a detailed questionnaire about their health, circumcision as well as their attitudes and beliefs about HIV prevention. As part of the survey, men were randomly allocated the information about HIV transmission risk and male circumcision. We then sold condoms to measure the demand for safe sex in response to learning (or not learning) the new information.
(Joint research with Alister Munthali and Susan Godlonton)


*The Massachusetts Avenue Development Seminar (MADS) series is an effort by the Center for Global Development and The Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies to take advantage of the incredible concentration of great international development scholars in the Metro Washington, DC area. The series seeks to bring together members of this community and improve communication between them.

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