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Researchers this week published a report on the implications of their earlier randomized controlled study in South Africa, which found that circumcised males were 65% less likely to acquire HIV.
"In West Africa, male circumcision is common and the prevalence of HIV is low, while in southern Africa the reverse is true," according to Bertran Auvert of the French National Research Agency INSERM and his research team, writing in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine. In the new study, the team analyzed the data and calculated that routine male circumcision across Africa over the next decade could stop about 2 million new HIV infections and prevent an estimated 300,000 deaths.
"This analysis shows that male circumcision could avert nearly 6 million new infections and save 3 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa over the next 20 years," the authors suggest. The overall HIV infection rate could be cut by about 37% through universal male circumcision, the study found.
"Male circumcision alone cannot bring the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa under control," the authors caution. "Even circumcised men can become infected, though their risk of doing so is much lower."
Although studies currently are focusing on the effect of circumcision on lowering the HIV infection risks for heterosexual males, many researchers also believe circumcised gay men are at a lower risk of HIV infection through insertive anal sex than uncircumcised men. HIV risks are higher for uncircumcised men because sexual fluids containing HIV can become trapped under the foreskin of the penis and placed in prolonged contact with cells susceptible to infection. (Reuters, with additional reporting by The Advocate)