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Does Circumcision Actually Help Prevent HIV?


A new study casts doubt on the longheld assertion that removal of the foreskin affects transmission.

Many studies, mostly out of Africa, have drawn conclusions that circumcision is effective in reducing STIs, including HIV. But a new study out of Canada — the first conducted in a Western nation — drew no such connections.

The results of the study were recently reported in The Journal of Urology under the title, “Circumcision and Risk of HIV Among Males from Ontario, Canada.” Researchers with the University of Toronto urology and pediatrics departments looked at the experiences of nearly 570,000 men in the Canadian province.

Of the 203,588 who were circumcised, 0.0002505% contracted HIV. Of the 366,362 men who were not circumcised, 0.0002484 contracted HIV.

“The vast majority (83%) of circumcisions occurred prior to age 1 year,” according to the researchers. “In the primary analysis, we found no significant difference in the risk of HIV between groups (adjusted hazard ratio 0.98 (95% confidence interval 0.72 to 1.35). In none of the sensitivity analyses did we find an association between circumcision and risk of HIV.”

The study's conclusion stated, “We found that circumcision was not independently associated with the risk of acquiring HIV among males from Ontario, Canada. Our results are consistent with clinical guidelines that emphasize safe-sex practices and counselling over circumcision as an intervention to reduce the risk of HIV.”

The effectiveness of circumcision in preventing HIV appears to be most beneficial when it comes to heterosexual men. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Male circumcision can reduce a man’s risk of acquiring HIV infection by 50 to 60 percent during sex with HIV-infected female partners, according to data from three clinical trials.”

Back in Africa, the nation of South Sudan hopes to circumcise 1.5 million men in an effort to curtail HIV.

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Neal Broverman