International journal of behavioral medicine 2017 07 07() doi 10.1007/s12529-017-9673-0
This study sought to assess risk compensation following voluntary medical male circumcision of young school-going men. Risk compensation is defined as an inadvertent increase in sexual risk behaviors and a corresponding decrease in self-perceived risk for contracting HIV following the application of a risk reduction technology.
This study documented the sexual practices of circumcised (n = 485) and uncircumcised (n = 496) young men in 42 secondary schools at three time points (baseline and 6 and 12 months) in a sub-district of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Study participants were aged from 16 to 24 years old.
At the end of the study period, there was no significant difference between the two cohorts concerning learners’ perceptions of being at risk of contracting HIV (interaction effect: b = -0.12, p = 0.40). There was also no significant difference in the number of sexual partners in the previous month (interaction effect: b = -0.23, p = 0.15). The proportion of learners who have never used a condom decreased significantly over time (time effect: b = -0.27, p = 0.01), and there was no difference between the circumcised and uncircumcised learners (interaction effect: b = -0.09, p = 0.91).
Risk compensation, as evidenced in this study over a 1-year period, was not associated with undergoing voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) in our sample of young school-going men. However, it is of concern that at the end of this study, less than half of the sexually active sample in a high-HIV-prevalence community used condoms consistently in the previous month (39% for both study cohorts). The latter underscores the need to view VMMC as a potential entry point for planned HIV and sexuality education interventions targeting young men in this community.