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Circumcision reduces HIV risk in men

Circumcised men might less likely be infected with HIV, but the benefit to actively circumcising adults for this purpose has been an open question.

Circumcision reduces HIV risk in men

Circumcised men might less likely get infected with HIV, but the benefit of actively circumcising adults for this purpose has been an open question. Researchers from the Hospital Ambroise-Pare in Boulogne, France found that circumcising men does afford them some protection against HIV. The researchers conducted a clinical study to test this prevention strategy. They randomly assigned 1,546 uncircumcised, HIV-negative men aged 18 to 24 years residing in South Africa to be circumcised and 1,582 to a control group. Those who underwent circumcision were instructed to abstain from sex for 6 weeks after the procedure. During 21 months of follow-up, 20 cases of HIV infection occurred in the circumcision group and 49 in the control group. Several possible ways that circumcision may protect against HIV infection are: keratinisation of the glans penis when not protected by the foreskin, short drying after sexual contact, reducing the life expectancy of HIV on the penis after sexual contact with an HIV-positive partner, reduction of the total surface of the skin of the penis, and reduction of target cells, which are numerous in the foreskin. Investigators recommend male circumcision for reducing the risk of HIV infection in areas where the disease is rampant. However, they also caution men not to think circumcision gives them total protection. It could increase the risk of HIV transmission in men who for example, decrease their condom use or otherwise engage in riskier behaviour.
PLoS Medicine,
October 2005
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