HIV Prevention

Ignoring an Important Weapon Against AIDS

Since 1987, when it was first reported in leading scientific journals that circumcision protects against HIV/AIDS , many studies have confirmed that uncircumcised men are from 3-7 times more likely to acquire HIV infection following heterosexual exposure than are circumcised men. The most recent research from a study in India ,starting in 1993, found an 8-fold increased risk in uncircumcised men . A report from the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) this year reviewed 28 studies relating the HIV/Circumcision connection and found that sexually -exposed circumcised men are half as likely to get HIV as are uncircumcised men. A spokesperson for USAID stated that there is “an incredible preponderance of evidence” of the protective effect of circumcision.

The reason for this protection has been found by Dr Roger Short and his group at Melbourne University in Australia.. The virus in HIV was found to enter the body by sticking to the moist undersurface of the foreskin , where there are specialized cells with HIV” receptors”. The rest of the penis has cells with a keratin covering which keeps the virus out.Dr Short stated in a recent meeting that “if you take the foreskin away you remove most of the receptor sites for HIV, you drastically reduce risk” of getting HIV infection.

Edward Green, an HIV researcher at Harvard, estimated that if all males in Africa were circumcised the rate of HIV could be reduced from 20% to under 5%. AIDS is responsible for over 20 million deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa and millions are infected every year. Dr Malcolm Potts from the University of California earlier estimated that 8 million African deaths from AIDS could have been prevented by circumcision. In view of the enormity of the epidemic , it is difficult to understand why this simple, low risk procedure has been largely ignored by international health and diplomatic organizations to help fight HIV.Would this attitude be different if the AIDS epidemic occured in more developed countries?