Circumcision may lower men's risk of getting HIV

News  Daily Nebraskan (Lincoln). Friday, 12 January 2007.

Ryan Boetel

A recent study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that circumcision may reduce a man's risk of becoming infected with HIV.

But that doesn't necessarily mean uncircumcised Nebraskans should rush into the procedure, said Pat Tetreault, a sexuality education coordinator for the External link University Health Center.

Some people look at it as a form of male genital mutilation, Tetreault said. Others look at it as a bad thing to do to boys.

Carolyn Williams, chief of Epidemiology Division of AIDS for External link NIAID, said the study could have the largest impact on parts of the world with a high prevalence of HIV and a low percentage of circumcised men.

Circumcision is a cultural practice, Williams said. She said parts of the world with a high percentage of the population living with HIV or AIDS could see an improvement, but it will take time.

After there is a decline in the number if males living with HIV, then the number of females living with the virus will drop accordingly, Williams said in a phone interview from NIAID in Maryland.

NIAID performed two studies in Africa. In Kisumu, Kenya, 2,784 HIV-negative men were studied, and in Rakai, Uganda, another 4,996 HIV-negative men were involved.

In Kenya, the circumcised men reduced their chances of becoming infected with HIV by 53 percent. In Uganda, the decrease was 48 percent.

The Kenyan males were circumcised using the clamp method, and the Ugandan males were circumcised with the External link sleeve method.

We have done the research, Williams said. Now we turn the research over to External link WHO (World Health Organization) and External link UNAIDS (the United Nations program on AIDS) and let them offer guidance.

In Nebraska, when it comes to looking at the risk of contracting HIV, circumcision is normally not considered an issue, said Alberto Cervantes, Latino outreach manager for the Nebraska AIDS Project.

The number of sexual partners a person has had, what type of sex he or she is engaging in and whether condoms are being used are typical factors. But we never ask an individual if he is circumcised, Cervantes said.

Cervantes said he had heard of the study and would definitely recommend circumcision for anyone considering it.

Tetreault said American men who are uncircumcised could still practice safe sex. Regardless if a man is circumcised, condoms should always be used, she said.

She encouraged more dialogue about topics like circumcision.

Our society doesn't look at human sexuality very well. Tetreault said.


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