Australia: Post-Sex Washing Doesn’t Lower HIV Risk, Study Says
July 25, 2007
Researchers who had hoped post-sex washing of the penis might confer circumcision-like protection against HIV infection were disappointed by a study presented today at the 4th International AIDS Society Conference in Sydney. The trial, involving more than 2,500 uncircumcised Ugandan men, found that washing with soap and water after sex did not reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Previous studies have shown male circumcision reduces the risk of female-to-male HIV infection by 60 percent.
The men in the current study were HIV-negative, and for 18 months they recorded their post-sex cleansing habits. Almost 85 percent reported washing every time. Most used only soap and water, though some also used a cloth or a dry cloth alone.
"We found that consistent washing was not associated with a reduction in HIV incidence," said Dr. Fred Makumbi of Uganda's Makerere University. There appeared to be a higher risk for men who used more water during washing. Likewise, men who washed immediately instead of waiting more than 10 minutes had a higher rate of infection. Though Makumbi called this finding "possibly unreliable" he said, "It appears that the use of water and [immediate] cleansing may facilitate viral survival and positive infection." Earlier research had found vaginal cleansing associated with a higher HIV rates in women.
"It would be nice if [penile cleansing] could be an alternative to [circumcision], but there's really not enough evidence to support it," said Professor Robert Bailey of the University of Illinois.
Australian Associated Press
7.25.2007; Tamara McLean