China is still
looking at evidence that male circumcision can play an
important role in fighting the spread of HIV and is not
currently considering a campaign to promote the
procedure, a senior health official said on Friday.
Late last year
researchers in the United States and Africa said that
circumcising men cut their risk of being infected with the
AIDS virus in half and could prevent hundreds of
thousands or even millions of new infections globally.
worked so well that the researchers stopped two large
clinical trials in Kenya and Uganda to announce the results,
although they cautioned that the procedure does not
make men immune to the virus.
"We have already
noticed these reports from Africa," Ru Xiaomei, deputy
director general of China's National Population and Family
Planning Commission, told Reuters in an interview. "But the
AIDS situation in China has not yet reached such a
large scale [as in Africa]."
planning authorities, with decades of experience at
promoting contraception, are increasingly being drafted into
the country's fight against AIDS.
In China, which
has an estimated 650,000 people living with HIV, the
virus is gradually spreading from high-risk groups like
intravenous drug users to the general population via
"I'm not yet
totally certain about the evidence for circumcision,"
Ru said. "We should exercise caution."
rates are low in China compared to other Asian countries,
such as South Korea or Japan, where the foreskin is
often removed at birth for hygiene reasons, or
Indonesia, where Muslims practice it for
minority, concentrated in the far western region of
Xinjiang, likewise circumcise their male children, usually
as they reach puberty. That could perhaps mean a wider
campaign in China would run into cultural problems and
opposition from the non-Muslim majority, said Ru, a
medical doctor by training,
problem with cost too," she added, in a country with
the world's largest population--1.3 billion people.
"It would be a big deal. It's much more reasonable to
get people to use condoms."
Institutes of Health study in Kisumu, Kenya, involving 2,784
men aged 18 to 24 showed a 53% reduction of HIV infections
in circumcised men compared to uncircumcised men. A
parallel study involving 4,996 men aged 15 to 49 in
Rakai, Uganda, showed circumcised men were 48% less
likely than uncircumcised men to become infected.
Experts say the
reduced HIV risk may be because cells on the inside of
the foreskin, which is removed in circumcision, are
particularly susceptible to HIV infection. HIV also
may survive better in a warm, wet environment like
that found beneath a foreskin. (Reuters)