Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Traditional male circumcision among young people

A public health perspective in the context of HIV prevention

World Health Organization

Publication details

Number of pages: 54
Publication date: 2009
Languages: English
WHO reference number: 9789241598910



Male circumcision is now recommended as a key component of comprehensive HIV prevention strategies to prevent the heterosexual transmission of HIV from women to men in countries where HIV prevalence is high and male circumcision rates are low (predominantly countries in East and Southern Africa). In many of these countries, traditional male circumcision is already taking place in some communities, usually performed on adolescent boys as a rite of passage into manhood.

This review provides a synthesis of the available literature on the prevalence, techniques and complications associated with traditional male circumcision, and the implications for HIV prevention. Based on these findings, recommendations are made for strengthening communication and collaboration between the health sector and traditional circumcisers in order to improve the safety and effectiveness of traditional male circumcision for HIV prevention, and as an entry point for improving the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent boys more generally.