Commentary & Opinion
Anti-Circumcision Stance Must End to Fight HIV, Australian Researchers Say
September 22, 2010
In an opinion piece published this week, three researchers called on the Royal Australasian College of Physicians to reverse its policy recommending against routine circumcision of newborn boys.
"Circumcision of males is now referred to by many as a surgical vaccine against a wide variety of infections and adverse medical conditions over the lifetime," said the article by Dr. Alex D. Wodak, director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St. Vincent's Hospital, Sydney; professor David Cooper, director of the National Center in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research; and Brian Morris, professor of Molecular Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney.
"A wealth of research has shown that the foreskin is the entry point that allows HIV to infect men during intercourse with an infected female partner," they wrote.
Referencing large studies conducted in Africa, the World Health Organization cites "compelling evidence" that male circumcision reduces the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission "by approximately 60 percent."
The procedure has not been shown to have a protective effect for men who have sex with men, the population that continues to account for most HIV cases in Australia. However, new infections among heterosexuals have been rising, according to the researchers, mirroring trends in North America and Western Europe.
In Australia, circumcision fell from favor in the mid-1970s as physicians concluded its risks outweighed its benefits. More recently, the proportion of Australian baby boys circumcised rose from 13 percent in 1998 to 19 percent in 2009, the study reported.
The authors called on Australia to resume paying for the procedure under the national health insurance program and to promote it across the region.
The article, "The Case for Boosting Infant Male Circumcision in the Face of Rising Heterosexual Transmission of HIV," was published in the Medical Journal of Australia (2010;193(6):318-319).
09.19.2010; Simeon Bennett
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