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HEALTH

Circumcision examined as potential weapon in combating spread of HIV


Troy Espera | August 21, 2006

TORONTO — The thousands-of-years-old practice of male circumcision is emerging as the newest weapon in combating the spread of HIV and is quickly grabbing the attention of global AIDS leaders in search of innovative methods of prevention.

According to results from a major clinical trial in Africa, the risk of transmission of HIV from a woman to a man can be reduced by 60 percent if the man is circumcised.

Circumcision is an elective surgical procedure that removes the foreskin from the penis.

United Kingdom medical journal Medical News Today, reporting from the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, says that former U.S. President Bill Clinton said that if further scientific research comes up with similar findings, then ways must be found to offer circumcision 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.

�Even if further trials show a lower risk of HIV infection in circumcised men, male circumcision will not provide complete protection against HIV infection," said Catherine Hankins, Chief Scientific Adviser, UNAIDS, in a media statement issued Friday. "Circumcised men can still contract HIV and pass it to their partners. If male circumcision is proven to be effective, it must be considered as just one element of a comprehensive HIV prevention package.�

Circumcision, Medical News Today reports, is 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 percent. Two major studies will be concluded next year – one in Uganda and the other in Kenya.

�The results of the two ongoing trials will help clarify the relationship between male circumcision and risk of HIV in differing contexts,," noted Dr Kevin De Cock, Director, WHO HIV/AIDS Department, in a media statement. "While we await these important results, UN partners and others are working to provide coordinated guidance and support to countries to help improve the safety of current male circumcision practices."

Medical News Today reports that the news about circumcision 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. – Issued by Gay Link Content


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