Originally published on Advocate.com November 20 2004 1:00 AM ET
Several studies conducted in Africa and India add more evidence to the theory that circumcised men have a significantly lower risk of HIV infection than uncircumcised men, The Boston Globe reports. Researchers say circumcision can reduce HIV infection risks because the inner surface of the foreskin has a large concentration of a type of white blood cell HIV can infect. Data from a study by USAID suggest that the inner surface of the foreskin absorbs HIV nine times as effectively as cervical tissue. A Demographic and Health Surveys study in Kenya found an HIV prevalence rate 11 times higher in uncircumcised men than in those who had been circumcised. A similar study in India showed uncircumcised men were eight times more likely to be infected with HIV.
Health officials in some developing nations are beginning to consider recommending circumcision for male babies based on the mounting evidence that the procedure can help reduce the chances of HIV infections. "If the evidence comes through, we could really look at this as a preventive measure. It's almost as effective as a vaccine. The effect would be massive," Derek von Wissell, director of Swaziland's National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS told the Globe. Officials at the World Health Organization are awaiting results from clinical trials currently under way in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa before recommending circumcision as an HIV prevention method. The studies will be completed in one to three years.