Circumcision and HIV

Circumcision And HIV

Over forty epidemiological studies have been conducted to investigate the relationship between male circumcision and HIV infection. Reviews of these studies have reached differing conclusions about whether circumcision could be used as a prevention method against HIV.

Experimental evidence was needed to establish a causal relationship between lack of circumcision and HIV, so three randomized controlled trials were commissioned as a means to reduce the effect of any confounding factors. Trials took place in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda. All three trials were stopped early by their monitoring boards on ethical grounds, because those in the circumcised group had a lower rate of HIV contraction than the control group. The results showed that circumcision reduced vaginal-to-penile transmission of HIV by 60%, 53%, and 51%, respectively. A meta-analysis of the African randomised controlled trials found that the risk in circumcised males was 0.44 times that in uncircumcised males, and reported that 72 circumcisions would need to be performed to prevent one HIV infection. The authors also stated that using circumcision as a means to reduce HIV infection would, on a national level, require consistently safe sexual practices to maintain the protective benefit.

As a result of these findings, the WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) stated that male circumcision is an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention but should be carried out by well trained medical professionals and under conditions of informed consent (parents consent for their infant boys). Both the WHO and CDC indicate that circumcision may not reduce HIV transmission from men to women, and that data is lacking for the transmission rate of men who engage in anal sex with a female partner. The joint WHO/UNAIDS recommendation also notes that circumcision only provides partial protection from HIV and should never replace known methods of HIV prevention. A newer study, published in PLoS in January, 2010, points out that gross changes in the penis's microbiome occurs following circumcision, and this may play a role in protection from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. A 2001 report of a study, which "was published as an abstract and presented at a conference", in MedPage Today, states that the "benefit of male circumcision for HIV prevention persists, even long after the procedure". However, they also insist that "these data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal."

A meta-analysis of data from fifteen observational studies of men who have sex with men found "insufficient evidence that male circumcision protects against HIV infection or other STIs."

Some earlier reports had expressed the position that circumcision has little to no effect on HIV transmission among heterosexual couples. Furthermore, some have challenged the validity of the African randomized controlled trials, prompting a number of researchers to question the effectiveness of circumcision as an HIV prevention strategy.

Read more about Circumcision And HIV:  Earliest Appearance in The Literature, Observational Studies, Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM), Randomized Controlled Trials, Estimated Impact of Circumcision Programs, Langerhans Cells and HIV Transmission

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