Circumcision May Protect Against HIV

African study found the procedure reduced infection rates by 60 percent

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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 26, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Circumcision reduced the rate of HIV infection among heterosexual men in South Africa by 60 percent, according to a study that provides the first published data about the effects of male circumcision on HIV infection.

The study was led by Bertran Auvert of the French health institute INSERM and included 3,274 young, sexually active men divided into two groups. Men in one group were immediately circumcised while men in the control group were to remain uncircumcised until the end of the study.

The circumcised men were asked to abstain from sex for six weeks after the operation. Both groups were to be tested for HIV at three, 12 and 21 months.

After 18 months, the researchers detected 20 HIV infections in the circumcised group and 49 in the control group. The researchers concluded that because circumcision was so effective at preventing HIV infection, it would be unethical to continue the study for the planned 21 months. They halted the trial and offered circumcision to all the men in the control group.

Results of the study, which will be published Oct. 25 in the journal PLoS Medicine, were first reported in July at an international AIDS conference.

While the authors of this study have called for male circumcision to become part of AIDS prevention efforts in Africa, other HIV experts say the findings must be confirmed by other studies before such action can be recommended.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on reducing HIV/AIDS risk.

SOURCE: Public Library of Science news release, Oct. 24, 2005

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