Male circumcision reduces HIV risk for female partners – study

2014-08-07 17:01

New research shows that medical male circumcision not only benefits men but women as well.

It is a known fact that medical male circumcision (MMC) reduces the risk of HIV infection in men by up to 60%. But a study presented at the 20th International Aids Conference in Melbourne, Australia, last month showed that women who only had sex with circumcised men had a 15% lower risk of HIV infection than women who had sex with uncircumcised partners.

Dr Mpho Maraisane, deputy director: health programmes unit (HIV) at The Aurum Institute, welcomed the findings.

“We have known for some time that MMC permanently reduces a man’s lifetime risk of HIV infection by about 60%. But the new findings show the magnitude of the potential to benefit women, and that benefit will be realised when enough men have MMC,” she said.

Maraisane quoted another study published in the Plos Medicine journal in 2011. That study revealed similar benefits but focused on upscaling medical male circumcision and how it would ultimately reduce HIV infection in women.

The study found that one new HIV infection was prevented for every five to 15 medical male circumcisions performed. The study also concluded that in 13 African countries with the highest HIV rates, including South Africa, medically circumcising 80% of adult men would reduce the number of new HIV infections by at least 20%.

Referring to both findings, Maraisane said: “We can’t ignore the power of these statistics in the context of South African society.”

South Africa has the highest HIV prevalence in the world and the majority of infections is among women.

Maraisane said: “As a woman and doctor involved in the fight against the twin epidemics of HIV and TB that excites me greatly.

“What is particularly exciting is that we can do something about this. We have clear evidence that large numbers of MMCs can have a multiplier effect, yielding benefits across society,” she said.

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