Originally published on Advocate.com April 01 2004 1:00 AM ET
A new study found that uncircumcised men were nearly seven times more likely to get HIV, giving further support to findings that circumcision reduces the changes of becoming HIV-positive. The study by Robert C. Bollinger and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National AIDS Research Institute in Pune, India, was published Friday as a "research letter" in The Lancet medical journal. The study also found that circumcised men had the same risk for infection with gonorrhea, herpes, and syphilis as the uncircumcised men.
"It is now about the ninth study which followed men who are HIV-negative over a period of months or years. It is the ninth study in a row which has found that the effect (of circumcision) is significant," said Robert C. Bailey, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "The fact that they found no behavioral differences between the two groups is all the more compelling and indicates that there is a biological factor."
Researchers believe uncircumcised men are at a greater risk for HIV infection because the foreskin of the penis can trap and hold body fluids against the skin. The cells of the foreskin also may be more susceptible to HIV infection than other penile cells. Although no studies have been conducted that focus on whether uncircumcised gay men are at a higher risk of HIV infection than circumcised men who have sex with men, researchers believe the findings from previous studies can be applied to all men.