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Demand for
circumcision grows in Africa

Demand for
circumcision grows in Africa

Spurred by studies showing circumcision cuts HIV risks, African men line up for the procedure.

With studies out showing that circumcision can dramatically reduce a man's chances of sexually acquired HIV infection, more and more Africans are opting for the procedure, The New York Times reports. A 2005 French study found circumcision reduced HIV infection risk by about two thirds. A study announced in February of 300 couples in which the husband was HIV-positive and the wife HIV-negative showed circumcision cuts the odds of transmitting the virus to the uninfected women by about 30%

In Zambia, surgeons began offering the procedure 18 months ago at a cost of about $3. Approximately 400 patients a month are requesting circumcisions, about eight times the capacity of the medical centers offering the procedure. The Swaziland health ministry is quickly training as many as 60 doctors to perform the procedure because of high demand for it among sexually active men in the country.

Large-scale studies of the effect of circumcision in lowering HIV risks are currently under way in Uganda and Kenya. Preliminary study data is expected to be released in June. The World Health Organization, which is awaiting the trial data before adopting an official position on circumcision, says that even if the studies show the procedure is effective, it would be just one piece of HIV prevention efforts, which also include HIV antibody testing, abstinence, monogamy, and condom use.

Researchers say that being uncircumcised boosts the chances for HIV infection because cells that are susceptible to HIV infection are present at high numbers in the foreskin of the penis and during intercourse bodily fluids containing HIV can become trapped under the foreskin and placed in prolonged contact with these cells. Although studies haven't focused on whether circumcision lowers HIV infection risks for gay men who practice anal sex, some researchers say it is likely the procedure offers some protection to them as well. (The Advocate)

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