Circumcision Cuts HIV Transmission by 76 Percent

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Male circumcision can reduce HIV transmission by up to 76% revealed researchers at the annual International Aids Society Conference in Rome on Wednesday. This is the first study to show that this male surgical procedure could help effectively prevent HIV within communities.

The data comes from a study conducted in Orange Farm, South Africa where free circumcisions were offered to men over the age of 15. During the course of 3 years more than 20,000 men underwent this operation, reaching nearly 60% of young men from15-24 years of age within the community.

At the end of the study the prevalence of HIV within this town was reduced by 55% and there was a 77% reduction in HIV incidence in circumcised men.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) commented on the study saying they “strongly” welcomed the results and feel that encouraging adult male circumcision is a step in the right direction for HIV prevention.

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“Science is proving that we are at the tipping point of the epidemic,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Urgent action is now needed to close the gap between science and implementation to reach the millions of people who are waiting for these discoveries. Scaling up voluntary medical male circumcision services rapidly to young men in high HIV prevalence settings will help reach the 2015 goal of reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50%.”

African countries, such as Kenya, have already taken the lead in using circumcision for disease prevention. Over the last several years more than 290,000 men have been given this operation for free. Tanzani has also followed in suit, pledging to circumcise at least 2.8 million men over 5 years. Already, in 6 weeks more than 10,000 procedures have been performed.

In Swaziland, which has the highest HIV transmission rates in the world, it is estimated that their plan to circumcise nearly 153,000 men could help save $600 million over the next ten years.

However, despite the dramatic advances taken in reducing the HIV transmission epidemic, the UNAIDS cautions that this surgical procedure is not a guarantee protection against infection and, to date, there still is no single method which can be used to prevent the disease. A combination of preventive measures such as circumcision, barrier contraceptive methods, reducing the number of sexual partners, and antiretroviral therapy should all be used when appropriate.

Resource: UNAIDS

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