Perceived HIV-protective benefits of male circumcision: Risk compensatory behaviour among women in Malawi
BACKGROUND: Male circumcision (MC) reduces men's risk of contracting HIV by approximately 60% and has the potential to significantly alter HIV epidemics. However, MC does not significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission to women from a circumcised man. In Malawi, several researchers has examined the acceptability, accessibility and sexual behaviour change after circumcision in men but behaviour change in women following their partner's circumcision remains uncertain. In order to fully realise the protective benefits of MC against HIV, factors related to risky sexual behaviour is imperative as some studies have shown potentials of increased risky behaviour in men following voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC). This study aimed to explore the perceptions and opinions of female school teachers and health workers on HIV-protective benefits of MC and its impact on risk compensatory behaviour among women in Malawi.
METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of women (N = 68) between May and June 2016 in three districts of southern Malawi. Risk compensatory behaviour was measured by number of sexual partners and use of protection during sex among female teachers and health care workers who are involved with educating people on benefits of VMMC. The bivariable analysis was conducted to test for association between HIV-protective benefits and risk compensatory behaviour. Purposive sampling was used to conduct eight qualitative in-depth interviews with women from the selected districts and the qualitative data was analysed thematically.
RESULTS: The mean age of women who participated in the survey was 30 years. Most women (94.1%) correctly indicated that HIV-positive circumcised men can still infect their partner and approximately, 90% of were knowledgeable of risky sexual behaviour for HIV. However, 55.9% perceived MC can lead women to adopt risky sexual behaviour. On the contrary to this finding, qualitative data indicate women's misconceptions regarding their partners' circumcision and HIV-protective benefits. Most women expressed that risky sexual behaviour such as having multiple sexual partners and inconsistent or non-use of condoms can easily be observed among women if they learn of their partners' partial HIV-protective benefits circumcision.
CONCLUSION: Exploring women's sexual behaviour change in the right of HIV-protective benefits of MC fills in a research knowledge important to public health. In-depth studies are therefore required to give more evidence that will guide the development of HIV risk-reduction interventions.