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Circumcision Lowers Risk of Sexually Transmitted Disease

Researchers emphasize that safe sex practices are still critical to preventing STDs

WEDNESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- In a study of Ugandan men, circumcision reduced both the incidence of herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) and the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV), two co-factors in HIV/AIDs, according to a report in the March 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Aaron A.R. Tobian, M.D., Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues randomized uncircumcised Ugandan males aged 15 to 49 who were HSV-2-negative and HIV-negative into two groups: 1,684 to be circumcised immediately (intervention group) and 1,709 to be circumcised after 24 months (control group). The men were tested for HSV-2, HIV infection and syphilis at baseline, six, 12 and 24 months and for HPV at baseline and at 24 months. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was used to test for HIV and HSV-2; HPV Linear Array for HPV genotyping, and positive rapid plasma reagin test for syphilis.

At 24 months, the probability of contracting HSV-2 was 7.8 percent in the intervention group and 10.3 percent in the control group, the investigators found. The prevalence of high-risk HPV genotypes was 18 percent in the intervention group and 27.9 percent in the control group. The trial found no significant difference in the incidence of syphilis, the authors note.

"These findings, in conjunction with those of previous trials, indicate that circumcision should now be accepted as an efficacious intervention for reducing heterosexually acquired infections with HSV-2, HPV and HIV in adolescent boys and men. However, it must be emphasized that protection was only partial, and it is critical to promote the practice of safe sex," the authors write.

One of the study authors has received research funding from Roche Molecular Diagnostics, manufacturer of the HPV test used in the study.

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