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International News

Australia: Doctor Says "the Cut" Lowers Risk of HIV Infection

January 28, 2009

An HIV expert is advising Australian government and health officials to inform parents about male circumcision's protective effects against HIV and other STDs. Dr. Alex Wodak points to data from Africa showing that circumcision helps reduce female-to-male HIV transmission.

"It's been estimated by mathematical modeling that if the whole of Africa had high levels of male circumcision at the start of the AIDS epidemic, there would have been 5.7 million fewer cases of HIV alone," said Wodak, a physician and director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. "This is an intervention which is effective, inexpensive, lifelong, safe, and could dramatically alter the course of an epidemic."

By removing the foreskin, circumcision removes Langerhans cells from the underside of the penis, which are recognized targets for HIV. It strengthens the skin of the penis, making tears less likely, thus lowering the risk of HIV, other STDs, and some cancers.

In Australia, circumcision has fallen out of favor, some parents even consider it child abuse, but Wodak said the procedure is safe, and that it should become an important prevention tool in coming years. "We have to try to anticipate the threats Australia will be exposed to from HIV, not just for 2009, but for 2029 too," he said.

Wodak said 38 studies conducted mostly in Africa indicate that circumcised men were half as likely to acquire HIV heterosexually as uncircumcised men. In fact, three recent studies comparing more than 11,000 circumcised and uncircumcised men in South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda were terminated early because circumcision showed such a significant protective effect.

Back to other news for January 2009

Adapted from:
The Age (Melbourne)
01.24.2009; Julia Medew

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


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