SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574
The clean-shave haircut known locally as the chiskop is rare among females but popular with black South African men, who are also predisposed to folliculitis keloidalis nuchae (FKN) (keloids on the back of the head). During a previous study, participants described an unexpected symptom of haircut-associated bleeding. As this is not a widely recognised entity, we conducted the present study at an HIV clinic servicing the same population, with the objective of comparing the prevalences of haircut-associated bleeding and FKN in 390 HIV-positive subjects with published data for Langa (Western Cape, South Africa). The results for HIV-positive participants were similar to the population data, but in both groups the prevalence of haircut-associated bleeding (24.5% v. 32%; p=0.17) was much higher than that of FKN (10.2% v. 10.5%), suggesting that the hairstyle increases the risk of bleeding even in people with healthy scalps without folliculitis. This study does not (and was not intended to) prove a higher HIV prevalence in chiskop wearers or in FKN sufferers, but it confirms a history of haircut-associated bleeding in at least a quarter of our male study participants. The risk of transmission of blood-borne infection via haircuts is likely to be low, but requires formal quantification. Public education on adequate sterilisation of barber equipment between haircuts and promotion of individual hair-clipper ownership for chiskop clients should not be delayed. Depilatory creams formulated for African hair offer a non-mechanical means of achieving clean-shave hairstyles.