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Circumcision helps prevent HIV infection

Published on October 21, 2015 at 14:42 / Updated on February 28, 2020 at 20:39

While the world awaits the vaccine that will unequivocally prevent the transmission of HIV, a study suggests an efficient preventative measure for high-risk populations: circumcision. Three clinical trials in Africa demonstrated that adult male circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV during heterosexual intercourse by over 60%!

Circumcision is a medical intervention carried out under local anesthesia. It consists in partially or completely removing the foreskin, thereby facilitating the clearing of the glans and consequently, urination and hygiene. The manner in which this procedure lowers the risk of HIV infection is twofold. Firstly, men who are not circumcised have thinner glans skin, allowing the virus to infiltrate the system more easily. Secondly, the foreskin is easily damaged and its cells are particularly vulnerable to the HIV virus.

Two clinical trials conducted in East Africa, where HIV and AIDS sweep through the population at appalling speed, were even aborted prematurely because the results were so blatantly positive. Considering the obvious benefits, it would have been completely unethical to pursue the trials without offering circumcision to all participants.

However, circumcision is not a panacea. During another trial, it was discovered that men were just as liable to get or transmit the infection until their scars were completely healed. It usually takes a month for a circumcision scar to heal.

In as much as this practice decreases the risk of HIV infection, it does not completely eliminate it. Therefore, circumcised men are still encouraged to wear condoms and practice safe sex.

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