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Friday, August 18, 2006

Male Circumcision Potential Weapon Against HIV/AIDS Spread

18 Aug 2006

Male circumcision, a practice thousands of years old, is slowly becoming recognised as a potentially powerful weapon to combat the spread of HIV infection. Such people as Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, are starting to consider circumcision seriously as a result of scientific evidence. Clinton said, in the 16th International AIDS Conference, Toronto, that circumcision must be considered if research shows it saves lives.

A major clinical trial in Africa has shown that the risk of transmission of HIV from a woman to a man can be reduced by 60% if the man is circumcised. Clinton said that if further scientific research comes up with similar findings, then ways must be found to offer it safely, rapidly and comprehensively. He added that because circumcision is such a controversial procedure, it is not going to be easy to get it done if scientists eventually give it the green light.

Compelling evidence, according to UNAIDS and WHO (World Health Organization) means three large-scale studies. If further studies point the same way as the recent one, circumcision could potentially save millions of lives - it is also relatively cheap to offer, when compared to current weapons to combat HIV/AIDS. The procedure can be carried out at $55 per man. This compares to $2,400 in future medical costs to treat a recently infected person in Africa.

According to Dr. Bertrand Auvert, leader of a South African study reported in July in Plos Medicine, circumcision could save 3 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa over a twenty-year period.

Another study, a small one carried out in rural Kenya, found that circumcision reduced HIV infection risk by 69%. Two major studies will be concluded next year - one in Uganda (July 2007) and the other in Kenya (September 2007).

The news is seeping its way into Africa's population. Hospitals in South Africa say men are coming in asking for the procedure to be done on them.

What is male circumcision?

It is an elective surgery to remove the prepuce (foreskin). To date, it is commonly done on newborns for traditional/religious reasons. Circumcision may also be carried out for medical reasons, such as treating phimosis and paraohimosis (problems with the foreskin), or balantis (inflammation of the tip of the penis) - in such cases it is usually carried out on older boys or men.

About 65% of US male newborns were circumcised in 1999 (WebMD). In the UK less than 10% of male babies are circumcised (BBC).

In the UK the main reason to circumcise a newborn is religious. In the USA many believe there are health benefits, hence more of them are circumcised.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today


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