UN Recommends Male Circumcision to Prevent HIV
March 28, 2007
Today, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS endorsed male circumcision as a way to prevent heterosexually acquired HIV. The procedure removes the foreskin, which includes cells believed to be especially vulnerable to HIV infection. The recommendations are supported by data from three recent studies showing a 50-60 percent HIV risk reduction for circumcised men who have sex with women.
The agencies' officials said studies are ongoing to determine whether male circumcision affects women's HIV risk. However, a reduction in male HIV prevalence would eventually benefit women, they said. To date, studies show little benefit in male circumcision for preventing HIV infection among men who have sex with men.
UNAIDS and WHO said that countries with HIV epidemics associated with heterosexual sex should increase access to male circumcision, especially in Africa, and target young, sexually active men. Condom use and regular HIV testing should continue to be promoted.
For individuals, enormous and immediate HIV prevention benefits could result in countries where circumcision is rarely practiced, said Kevin de Cock, WHO's HIV/AIDS programs director. "However," he noted, "it will be a number of years before we can expect to see an impact on the epidemic."
If access to male circumcision is increased, UNAIDS and WHO estimated 5.7 million sub-Saharan African men could avoid HIV infection, and 3 million people would be spared death over the next two decades. "In view of the large potential public health benefit of expanding male circumcision services, countries should' consider providing the services free of charge or at the lowest possible cost," the agencies said. Without a subsidy, the procedure could cost $50-$100 per person, they estimated.
The full report is "New Data on Male Circumcision and HIV Prevention: Policy and Program Implications."
03.28.07; Laura MacInnis
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.