Circumcision Found to Reduce HIV Risk, Again

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Apr 6, 2004 Another study, this one involving more than 800 Kenyan men, suggests that circumcision decreases the risk of being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS

Growing evidence has linked circumcision with some protection against HIV infection, Dr. Kawango E. Agot of Moi University in Kenya and colleagues note in the medical journal Epidemiology. "Some have recommended male circumcision as one possible strategy to control the rapid spread of HIV in Africa."

However, cultural and religious differences between circumcised and uncircumcised men have made it difficult to be sure that circumcision itself reduces the risk of HIV transmission, Agot's group notes.

To investigate further, the researchers studied 845 men from the Luo ethnic community, a population with a high prevalence of HIV. Many members of this community are Christians from African-instituted churches, and although circumcision practices differ among denominations, other risk factors "might be expected to be rather similar," the researchers point out,

Overall, 398 of the men were circumcised and the remaining 447 were not. The proportion infected with HIV was 30 percent in the uncircumcised group and 20 percent in the circumcised group.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Eduardo L. Franco of McGill University in Montreal comments that this observational study certainly does not end debate on the matter.

However, he praises the investigators' ingenuity and notes that "the quality of the science informing that debate has just moved up a notch."

SOURCE: Epidemiology, March 2004.