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Circumcision Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in London, United Kingdom: An Unlikely Strategy for HIV Prevention

September 23, 2011

Male circumcision is unlikely to be a workable HIV prevention strategy among London MSM, the current study suggests. The team undertook the research to explore attitudes about circumcision among MSM in London and to assess the feasibility of conducting research on circumcision and HIV prevention among these men.


In May and June 2008, a convenience sample of MSM visiting gyms in central London completed a confidential, self-administered questionnaire. The information collected included demographic characteristics, self-reported HIV status, sexual behavior, circumcision status, attitudes about circumcision, and willingness to take part in research on circumcision and HIV prevention.

Among the 653 participants, 29 percent reported they were circumcised. HIV prevalence among the MSM was 23.3 percent and did not differ significantly between circumcised (18.6 percent) and uncircumcised (25.2 percent) men (adjusted odds ratio=0.79; 95 percent confidence interval: 0.50-1.26). The proportion of participants reporting unprotected anal intercourse in the past three months was similar in the circumcised (38.8 percent) and uncircumcised (36.7 percent) groups (AOR=1.06; 95 percent CI: 0.72-1.55). The uncircumcised MSM were less likely to think there were benefits to being circumcised compared to the circumcised men (31.2 percent vs. 65.4 percent, P<0.001). Just 10.3 percent of the uncircumcised men indicated a willingness to take part in research on circumcision as a strategy to prevent HIV transmission.

"Most uncircumcised MSM in this London survey were unwilling to participate in research on circumcision and HIV prevention," the authors concluded. "Only a minority of uncircumcised men thought that there were benefits of circumcision. It is unlikely that circumcision would be a feasible strategy for HIV prevention among MSM in London."

Back to other news for September 2011

Adapted from:
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
10.2011; Vol. 38; No. 10: P. 928-931; Alicia C. Thornton; Samuel Lattimore; Valerie Delpech; Helen A. Weiss; Jonathan Elford

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention

Reader Comments:

Comment by: David (San Francisco, CA) Mon., Sep. 26, 2011 at 10:33 am UTC
The intact men are uninterested because they know the value of their foreskins. The results seem rather obvious. Moreover, numerous observational studies have already shown no protective effect from circumcision in MSM. So what is the point of this pointless exercise in beating a dead horse? I suspect grant money.
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Comment by: Joseph4GI (Stockton, CA) Mon., Sep. 26, 2011 at 5:40 am UTC
Is this ethical at all? I mean, are there any "studies" being carried out to see how much female circumcision reduces the spread of HIV? I mean, after all, a labiaplasty and unroofing would remove a lot of langerhans cells, the cells implicated in the spread of HIV right?

If female circumcision had the same effect of that magical "60% reduction" figure, would "researchers" then try to see whether or not it's "feasible" to try and circumcise a large chunk of the female population?

Since when do we "study" the liability of a body part to see if it's OK to chop it off? Since when do we "study" ways to deliberately mar the human body?

Shouldn't we be looking for HIV prevention strategies that do NOT involve a controversial genital surgery that people have been trying to defend for centuries?

Aren't we supposed to be looking for newer, better solutions to problems?

Not trying to preserve a controversial blood ritual?

I am appalled by what "scientists" consider "research."

These "researchers" should be ashamed of yourself.

Would you want to cut off part of your penis to prevent HIV?

No European in the RIGHT MIND would ever do this. And yet, we don't know how to stuff this down African people's throats.

How absolutely repulsive.
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Comment by: Mark Lyndon (UK) Sun., Sep. 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm UTC
Even in Africa, male circumcision is unlikely to be a workable HIV prevention strategy.

"There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence—in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher."

The South African National Communication Survey on HIV/AIDS, 2009 found that 15% of adults across age groups "believe that circumcised men do not need to use condoms".

From the committee of the South African Medical Association Human Rights, Law & Ethics Committee :
"the Committee expressed serious concern that not enough scientifically-based evidence was available to confirm that circumcisions prevented HIV contraction and that the public at large was influenced by incorrect and misrepresented information. The Committee reiterated its view that it did not support circumcision to prevent HIV transmission."

The one randomized controlled trial into male-to-female transmission showed a 54% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised btw:

(all links removed)

ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, and especially Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery will cost lives, not save them.
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