South Africa

New evidence backs circumcision crusade

Reuters/Mona Dolan

A campaign encouraging African men to get circumcised to reduce HIV infections was a major talking point at the world AIDS forum in Rome on Wednesday.


A study unveiled at the forum revealed that new cases of HIV among men fell by 76 per cent after a circumcision programme was launched in a South African township.

"This study is a fantastic result for a simple intervention which costs 40 euros, takes 20 minutes and has to be done only once in a lifetime," said David Lewis, of the Society for Family Health in Johannesburg.

The study was conducted between 2007 and 2010 in Orange Farm, a township of 110,000 adults, where more than 20,000 circumcisions had been performed.

But France's 2008 Nobel laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who in 1983 co-identified HIV as the source of AIDS, warned that over-confidence in circumcision was a major anxiety.

"Nothing provides 100-percent protection, not even a vaccine," she said.

"Let's stop thinking that one preventative tool is enough. Circumcision has to be part of a combined approach".

The theory behind the benefits of circumcision is that the inner foreskin is an easy entry point for HIV. It is rich in so-called Langerhans cells, tissue that the AIDS virus easily latches on to and penetrates.


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