Circumcision Shown to Deter HIV Spread
April 25, 2003
Circumcised men are at least 50 percent less likely to contract HIV during unprotected sex than uncircumcised men, according to a soon-to-be released report by the U.S. Agency for International Development.Adapted from:
Based on a systematic review of 28 scientific studies published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the USAID report "found that circumcised males are less than half as likely to be infected by HIV as uncircumcised men." "A sub analysis of 10 African studies found a 71 percent reduction among higher risk men," said the report obtained by the Washington Times.
According to the scientific studies, the skin on the inside of the male foreskin is "mucosal," similar to the skin found on the inside of the mouth or nose. This mucosal skin has a high number of Langerhan cells, which are HIV target cells, or doorway cells for HIV. "HIV looks for target cells, like the Langerhans; it's a lock and key," said Edward G. Green, senior researcher at Harvard University. "The rest of the skin on the penis is armorlike."
Green said that if all males in Africa were circumcised, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate could be reduced from 20 percent in some regions to below 5 percent. In addition, circumcision reduces the transmission of other STDs, reduces infections associated with poor hygiene, and makes it easier to use a condom, Green said.
The 60-page USAID report is based on presentations given at a conference in September, and will be available on the USAID Web site "soon," said Dr. Anne Peterson, assistant administrator for global health at USAID. She said that while the information "looks profound and wonderful," she cautioned there may be other factors that reduce HIV transmission in circumcised men.
If circumcision is promoted, another concern is that circumcised men may mistakenly believe they are invulnerable to HIV. They are not, said Peterson. "It reduces your risk. It does not protect you outright," she said. "People who are circumcised still get HIV. It is still better to abstain, be faithful in marriage," or use condoms.
04.25.03; Tom Carter
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.