Sexual and reproductive health

Male circumcision: global trends and determinants of prevalence, safety and acceptability

World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health and Research and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

Male circumcision: global trends and determinants of prevalence, safety and acceptability

Publication details

Number of pages: 44
Publication date: 2007
Languages: English - Web only


Male circumcision is one of the oldest and most common surgical procedures worldwide, and is undertaken for many reasons: religious, cultural, social and medical. There is conclusive evidence from observational data and three randomized controlled trials that circumcised men have a significantly lower risk of becoming infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Demand for safe, affordable male circumcision is expected to increase rapidly, and country-level decision-makers need information about the sociocultural and medical determinants of circumcision, as well as risks of the procedure, in the context of comprehensive HIV prevention programming.

The aim of this report is to review the determinants, prevalence, safety and acceptability of male circumcision, focusing on sub-Saharan Africa.

In the first section, we review the religious, cultural and social determinants of male circumcision and estimate the global and regional prevalences. In the second section, we summarize medical aspects of the procedure, including medical indications for circumcision, surgical methods used and the complications of circumcision carried out in clinical and non-clinical settings. The third section focuses on the public health implications of the fact that male circumcision reduces risk of HIV infection, including a summary of the acceptability of adult male circumcision in currently on-circumcising populations in sub-Saharan Africa with high incidence of HIV.