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might dramatically reduce risk of HIV infection

might dramatically reduce risk of HIV infection

Men who are circumcised might cut their risk of sexually acquired HIV infection by as much as 70%, according to a new study by researchers in France and South Africa, The Wall Street Journal reports. The study, which will be presented at the Third International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment later this month in Brazil, followed 3,000 HIV-negative heterosexual men ages 18-24 in South Africa, half of whom were circumcised for the study.

Researchers had planned to study the men for 21 months, but after only 12 months data clearly showed that circumcision dramatically slashed HIV transmission rates among the men. For every 10 uncircumcised men who contracted HIV during the study, only 3 circumcised men became infected. The study was stopped early to allow uncircumcised men to undergo circumcision to cut their HIV risks.

The researchers say their study suggests that circumcision may be an effective way to slow the spread of HIV in resource-poor nations where safer-sex campaigns are inadequate or where cultural practices prevent the use of condoms.

Although the study followed only sexually active heterosexual men, some researchers have previously theorized that circumcised gay and bisexual men who are the penetrative partner--or "top"--during anal sex may also have lower HIV risks than uncircumcised men. HIV risks for uncircumcised men are higher because bodily fluids that can contain HIV can become trapped beneath the foreskin and kept in close contact with cells in the penis and foreskin that are susceptible to HIV infection. Removing the foreskin prevents bodily fluids from prolonged exposure to these vulnerable cells.

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