Male Circumcision Efforts Prevent HIV/AIDS

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HIV/AIDS researchers and advocates on Monday at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City said governments and health communities need to scale up male circumcision efforts to prevent HIV, particularly in at-risk countries in Eastern and sub-Saharan Africa, Reuters reports.

According to Reuters, three studies were cut short in 2006 after they showed strong evidence that male circumcision could help reduce a man's risk of HIV. At the conference, researchers and advocates said there has been little effort since then to encourage more men to undergo the procedure (Tan, Reuters, 8/4). Supporters of circumcision say that sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of the world's 33 million HIV-positive people live, could benefit the most from more widespread circumcision. However, enthusiasm for the procedure has been "tempered by worries that circumcision may face a backlash on cultural, religious or sexual grounds and may prompt men to abandon use of the condom," AFP/Yahoo! News reports.

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According to data presented Monday at the conference, obstacles to promoting circumcision "are not as bad as feared," AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/4). Researchers at the conference said two circumcision studies in Africa indicated that the procedure did not reduce circumcised men's sexual pleasure or function. The studies also did not find any increase in risky behavior among newly circumcised men. "We found that there was no difference between the circumcised men and uncircumcised men -- that there is no increase in sexual dysfunction in circumcised men. And in fact, circumcised men did report greater penile sensitivity after circumcision," Robert Bailey, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois, said.

Conference attendees are expected to discuss further details of a circumcision study involving 2,784 men in Kisumu, Kenya, on Tuesday.

Dvora Joseph, head of the HIV department at Population Services International, said, "This is a call to action ... to call for male circumcision. It's been two years and still there is not enough money, focus to scale up effort and more needs to be done." Joseph added that although people are beginning to accept this intervention measure, stigma associated with it is still strong. "There is no national male circumcision campaign to promote it ... more education is needed," Joseph said (Reuters, 8/4). Bertran Auvert, who conducted a circumcision study in South Africa, said the procedure could prevent up to 3.8 million HIV cases and half a million deaths in sub-Saharan Africa between 2006 and 2016, as well as up to 5.8 million deaths by 2026 (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/4).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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