WASHINGTON (AFP) — Circumcision, which has been found to reduce by about one-half the transmission of HIV between heterosexuals, appears to offer far less protection for men engaging in homosexual intercourse, according to a new study.
The research published in the October 8 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association compiled 15 discrete studies of more than 50,000 male subjects in Africa.
The report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that male circumcision appears to reduce by between 50 and 60 percent the likelihood of female-to-male transmission of the potentially deadly AIDS virus.
But among men who report having male sexual partners, researchers found little difference in the rate of HIV infection between those who were circumcised and those who were not.
Of 53,567 subjects in the study, 52 percent were circumcised, meaning that they had had all or some of the foreskin removed from the penis.
The study's authors wrote that circumcision appears to provide "not statistically significant" protection from HIV in men who engage in anal sex with other men. The researchers said however that more research may be necessary to quantify the amount of protection -- or lack thereof -- provided by circumcision.
That view was echoed in an editorial that accompanied the article. A team of peer reviewers from Vanderbilt University concluded that "circumcision would likely be insufficiently efficient to be universally effective in reducing HIV risk, and will have to be combined with other prevention modalities to have a substantial and sustained prevention effect."
The findings did suggest however, that male circumcision may offer men engaging in heterosexual intercourse some protection against sexually-transmitted infections, such as syphilis or chlamydia.
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