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Healthline Connects

WHO says: Male circumcision should be part of HIV prevention


Researchers have known for years that circumcision significantly reduces the spread of HIV virus in men, and that uncircumcised men are 3 times more likely to contract HIV. Male circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis. Researchers state that removal of the foreskin makes it more difficult for the virus to penetrate the skin of the penis. The underside of the foreskin has special immunological cells which are targets for the HIV virus. Male circumcision is associated with a lower risk of male genital diseases like cancer of the penis, balanitis and phimosis.
Some studies indicate that women partners of circumcised males have a lower risk of cervical cancer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that based on studies in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually transmitted HIV infection in men by 60%. Surprisingly, only 30% of men worldwide are estimated to be circumcised. Health experts recommend that circumcision be offered as part of safe sex promotion practices. They want to make clear that circumcision does not provide complete protection against HIV and other diseases, and all other practices such as use of condoms should be followed.

HIV/AIDS is the most serious health problem in much of Africa, including Uganda. Ugandan experts cite the tragic situation they face in losing a generation to whom the elderly would traditionally impart their wisdom. Circumcision rituals are an integral part of this wisdom. In many African cultures, the circumcision ritual takes place during puberty and marks the child's acceptance into the tribe as an adult. Boys are often circumcised in a group. During the period of recuperation after the ceremony, the newly circumcised are taught tribal history and traditions. Health care workers are calling for male circumcision services to be delivered in a manner that is culturally sensitive and adhere to medical ethics and human rights standards of informed consent, confidentiality and absence of coercion.

Getting the word out to populations who may not have access to this information will be the responsibility of every clinician. Make sure to talk to the sexually active males in your practice today. Find out if they are circumcised. Educate them and their partners about the health advantages of circumcision. Refer them for circumcision services and help stem the tide of HIV transmission.

Thank you JaxinCPT for use of your photo Makishi dancers wiping away footprints.
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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.

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