The role of male circumcision in sexual networks and sexual behavior among youth in Kisumu, Kenya

Salome N. Wawire, Brown University

Cultural practices have been linked with the spread of HIV/AIDS. Recent studies on male circumcision provide evidence that it is significantly associated with lower risk of HIV infection. Using the case of the traditionally non-circumcising Luo community in Kenya, this paper explores ways in which sexual networks are forged and sustained, and sexual behavior is influenced in the context of complex interaction of circumcision, ethnicity and gender. Data were collected through participant observation and in-depth and key informant interviews with sexually active men and women, and members of their social networks. Findings show that perceptions associated with circumcision enable circumcised men to broaden their sexual networks, enhance their sexual experience and increase frequency of sexual activity. I conclude that while there is physiological evidence that circumcision has preventive benefits in the transmission of HIV/AIDS, the associated perceptions, attitudes and practices also play a critical role in the transmission process.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Reproductive health, HIV-AIDS, poverty and gender