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Circumcision Program in South African Town Reduces HIV Rates

September 13, 2013

Researchers from the University of Versailles in France have reported that a male circumcision program in Orange Farm, South Africa was successful in lowering HIV incidence and was popular with the local men. The researchers began a three-year program in 2008 that provided voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) to males older than 15 as well as HIV risk reduction counseling, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and the offer for HIV testing. Approximately 18,000 men agreed to undergo VMMC.

The researchers compared surveys from 2007 and early 2008 to follow-up surveys from 2010 and early 2011. Results showed that prevalence of circumcision for men 15 to 49 increased from 12 percent before the program to 58 percent after the program. HIV prevalence in the town after the program was 12.3 percent compared to estimates of 14.7 without the program -- a 19-percent reduction in three years.

The study indicated that VMMC reduced HIV incidence by 57-61 percent. Also, contrary to the concern that men might engage in riskier sexual behavior after VMMC, the results produced no statistical difference in condom use or number of extramarital partners between circumcised and uncircumcised men. The researchers concluded that the roll-out of adult VMMC was associated with a decrease in HIV in this sub-Saharan community where circumcision was not the norm.

The full report, "Association of the ANRS-12126 Male Circumcision Project With HIV Levels Among Men in a South African Township: Evaluation of Effectiveness Using Cross-Sectional Surveys," was published online in the journal PLOS Medicine (2013; doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001509).

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