COVID-19: Gobbling Up Funding for Fatal Epidemics Such as Malaria, TB and AIDS

Coronavirus or Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV?

Al Jazeera (2020)

Film Review

Why is a Low Mortality Illness Like COVID-19 Crowding out Treatment for the World’s Most Dangerous Illnesses?

This documentary reports on urgent concerns that COVID 19 “pandemic” management is crowding out prevention, diagnosis and treatment for far more serious illnesses, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS.

Epidemiologists assert that low cost interventions such as bednets and “residual spraying” (presumably with insecticides?) are extremely effective in preventing malaria in African and Asian countries that experience malaria epidemics during the rainy season. Where the disease is diagnosed early, artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) has an extremely high response rate. Unfortunately due to diversion of Red Cross and other international funding to COVID management,  Africa’s anti-malaria programs have suffered significantly. India, however, is still making good progress in reducing disease prevalence.

Diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis has been similarly affected in the developing world, where, at present approximately 25% of patients diagnosed with HIV are unable to access life-saving anti-retroviral treatment.

 

Male Genital Mutilation

On watching this film, I was really horrified how much male circumcision rates have increased since I left the US. In the eighties and nineties, they seemed to be declining as more feminists entered the medical profession. Like many of my feminist friends, I have always opposed circumcision, along with a variety of child rearing practices that seem to affect men’s sensitivity and self-confidence. Contrary to the claims of pro-circumcision advocates, young infants experience pain as acutely as adults do. Now that the US has become both post-feminist and post-racial, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that male circumcision is making a comeback.

Circumcize Me?

BBC (2012)

Film Review

Circumcise Me? examines the alarming US cultural practice of genitally mutilating their male infants. It also asks why American doctors have parted ways with their British (and Australia and New Zealand) counterparts in this area. The documentary demonstrates how infants are strapped down at eight days of age, enabling a surgical circumcision specialist to snip off the foreskin with a specialized circumcision instrument.

Medical circumcision was first introduced to the English speaking world in 1860. Doctors claimed it inhibited masturbation and cases of insanity caused by masturbation. Nineteenth century medical textbooks stress that the pain of circumcision is essential – theoretically the cure only worked if young boys to associated the penis with pain and punishment.

During the twentieth century, the rationale for medical circumcision changed. Without a shred of research evidence doctors (many US doctors still do) claimed that uncircumcised men were at higher risk for cancer of the penis, herpes, warts and HIV. When these claims were debunked, doctors claimed the partners of circumcised men were at higher risk of cervical cancer. When high rates of cervical cancer among Israeli women (the Jewish and Muslim religion requires all men to be circumcised) suggested otherwise, circumcision rates in most English speaking countries declined. In the 1940s, 50 percent of British male infants were circumcised. By 2012, the figure had decreased to 3%. This contrasts with Fargo North Dakota which, in 2012, had a circumcision rate of 90%.

Although sexologists don’t do population research, the film features several who have seen a link between loss of glans* sensitivity in circumcised men and erectile dysfunction in middle age. The filmmakers also interview circumcised men who have restored their foreskins (either through surgery or a procedure known as “tugging”**) . All report greatly enhance sensitivity and functioning.

American men seem to want their sons circumcised though their motivation is unclear. In the film, the most common reasons given are “Everyone else does it” and “I want him to look like me.”

In a candid interview at the end of the film, a British Medical Association representative refers to the US obsession with circumcision as a risky unethical procedure that continues that’s mainly driven by a multimillion dollar surgical circumcision industry.


*Phimosis is a congenital narrow of the foreskin which prevents it from being retracted.
** “Tugging” – A technique for foreskin restoration. See foreskin restoration