A survey of Zambian women found they misperceived the HIV- and other sexually transmitted infection (STI)-related risk reduction of male circumcision. Publishing their findings in PLOS ONE, researchers conducted two rounds of interviews of 934 15-to-29-year-old women in the sub-Saharan African nation, and conducted in-depth interviews of a subsample of 45 of the women.

The first round of interviews was conducted between November 2010 and April 2011. The second round was conducted between September and December 2011.

Multiple large randomized clinical trials conducted during the mid-2000s estimated that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) reduces the risk of female-to-male transmission of the virus by about 60 percent. VMMC confers no direct HIV risk reduction for women, but research has also suggested that widespread adoption of VMMC sub-Saharan Africa does ultimately reduce HIV incidence among women. Other research has found that male circumcision reduces the risk of syphilis for both women and men.

In the first and second interviews, a respective 64 percent and 82 percent of the women correctly articulated that male circumcision reduces men’s risk of contracting HIV. A respective 30 percent and 41 percent incorrectly stated that male circumcision fully protects men against the virus. The women also greatly overestimated male circumcision’s protective power against other STIs. A respective 50 percent and 70 percent of the women said they believed male circumcision reduces a woman’s HIV risk if she has sex with a circumcised man.

“Programs should address women’s informational needs and continue to emphasize that condoms remain critical, regardless of male partner’s circumcision status,” the researchers concluded.

To read the study, click here