Thursday, December 21, 2006

Widespread male circumcision could prevent some 1.4 million new HIV infections and 800,000 AIDS deaths in South Africa over the next 20 years


The South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) said new studies showing circumcision reduced the risk of HIV transmission by up to 60 percent indicated it was time to study how to implement a circumcision programme.

"South Africa stands to benefit more than any other country from male circumcision by virtue of the very high current HIV prevalence and the relatively low rate of circumcision in the country," SACEMA said in a statement.

"Over the next 20 years male circumcision in South Africa could avert 1,400,000 new cases of HIV and 800,000 HIV deaths."

South Africa has one of the world's largest HIV/AIDS caseloads with 5.5 million of its 45 million people infected, and studies have warned the country's epidemic continues to spread at a rapid rate, particularly among the young.

Researchers this month concluded after two large clinical trials in Kenya and Uganda that circumcision was a valuable tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS, echoing results from an earlier study in South Africa.

Experts say the reduced HIV risk may be because cells on the inside of the foreskin, the part of the penis cut off in circumcision, are particularly susceptible to HIV infection.

Researchers have cautioned that circumcision is not a panacea, reducing the chances of infection by at most 60 percent, and that existing programmes to encourage condom use and reduction in numbers of sexual partners must continue.

Using condoms and practicing monogamy will probably do a lot more to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS than male circumcision.

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