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“This is not iffy data, this is serious data,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at National Institutes of Health, said when findings from the Uganda and Kenya studies were released in December 2006. Mrs. Clinton announced at the AIDS 2012 conference held in Washington in July that the United States was dedicating $40 million to circumcise 500,000 men in South Africa.

In many African countries, political leaders have gotten circumcised and promoted VMMC through advertising. One Uganda poster, for instance, shows a young woman clasping her surprised face as she looks downward, presumably at a man’s crotch. “You mean you’re not circumcised!” says the caption, adding, “Stand Proud. Get Circumcised.”

The campaigns led to about 1.5 million circumcisions, as of March 2012, according to AVAC.

But compared with the 2015 goals, progress to date has been unimpressive: Uganda, for instance, wants to circumcise 4.2 million men by 2015, but was less than 10 percent of the way to its goal by mid-2012.

Mr. Geisheker and his allies in the anti-circumcision or “intactavist” movement oppose both infant circumcision and misinformed adult circumcision, saying that male foreskin is normal, healthy and important for male sexual satisfaction.

VMMC “is a gigantic experiment,” said Mr. Geisheker. Even if it were to work, the African circumcision studies only looked at men getting HIV from women, he noted. When researchers looked in the opposite direction – women getting HIV from men – being circumcised didn’t stop AIDS transmission.