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NZAF cautions over circumcision research

Mon 18 Dec 2006 In: New Zealand Daily News

Circumcision cannot beat condoms as the best prevention against HIV for gay and bisexual men, says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, following recent media reports of two major studies of heterosexual men in Africa. The studies were sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health and conducted in Kenya and Uganda. They examined whether circumcision of heterosexual men would reduce the risk of HIV infection from an HIV-positive female partner, and concluded that circumcision would reduce this risk by half. “This does not mean that circumcised gay and bisexual men are only half as likely to get infected with HIV,” says Eamonn Smythe, NZAF Acting Executive Director. “There is no evidence to suggest that circumcision prevents the spread of HIV through unprotected anal sex, which is the most common method of transmission between men in New Zealand.” The African research has been based on the theory that uncircumcised men are at greater risk of HIV because of cells in the foreskin, which absorb the virus more easily. “However, the great majority of gay and bisexual men with HIV in New Zealand are likely to have become infected through the lining of the anus,” Smythe says. “The anus lining has a dense collection of cells that act as receptors for HIV, which are spread across a much greater surface area than the foreskin.” NZAF says it would welcome further research into the efficacy of circumcision for preventing HIV transmission between men. “Very little research has been done in this area,” Smythe says. “There have been only three published studies to date that we're aware of. The studies that have been conducted have reached differing conclusions about the correlation between circumcision and HIV infection via anal sex.” For uncircumcised gay and bisexual men, getting the snip as a substitute for using condoms in the future would be an unwise decision, Smythe adds. “Surgical intervention for the prevention of HIV will not work for men who have sex with men. Circumcision for an adult male is not a trivial operation, and even the African heterosexual studies have concluded that it only lessens the chance of catching the virus. "Condoms are still the cheapest and most effective method for preventing HIV and other STIs.”     Ref: NZAF (m)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Monday, 18th December 2006 - 12:00pm

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