Male Circumcision Might Reduce Risk of Female-to-Male HIV Transmission by About 65%, Study Presented at IAS Meeting Says
Male circumcision can reduce by about 65% the risk of men contracting HIV through sexual intercourse with women, according to a study conducted by French and South African researchers and presented Tuesday at the 3rd International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, BBC News reports (BBC News, 7/26). The randomized, controlled clinical trial enrolled more than 3,000 HIV-negative, uncircumcised men ages 18 to 24 living in a South African township (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/26). Half of the men were randomly assigned to be circumcised, and the other half served as a control group, remaining uncircumcised (Reuters Health, 7/26). Bertrand Auvert, who coordinated the study for France's National AIDS Research Agency, said that after 21 months, 51 of the uncircumcised men had contracted HIV, compared with 18 of the circumcised men. The procedure "prevented six to seven out of 10 potential HIV infections," Auvert said (Astor, AP/Long Island Newsday, 7/27). He added that because the men in the study identified themselves as heterosexual, the results cannot be generalized to male-to-male or male-to-female transmission (Reuters Health, 7/26).
Although UNAIDS expressed "considerable interest" in the study, the agency emphasized that more research is required to determine the true effectiveness of circumcision in preventing female-to-male HIV transmission. The results of two NIH-funded studies under way in Kenya and Uganda could shed more light on male circumcision in different social and cultural environments. If circumcision proves to be an effective tool to help curb the spread of HIV, the procedure still will need to be part of a comprehensive prevention package. "Although UNAIDS believes that it is premature to recommend male circumcision services as part of HIV prevention programs, there is heightened interest from governments and the general public in male circumcision in a number of African countries," the agency said in a release (UNAIDS release, 7/26). "While these results are very promising, we need to put them in a broader context to see the full benefits of circumcision," Charles Gilks, head of treatment, prevention and scale up at the World Health Organization HIV/AIDS Programme, said. Gilks said he worries that the study could make many circumcised men believe they cannot contract HIV and lead them to engage in sex without a condom. In addition, he said WHO is rushing to set guidelines for safe and hygienic circumcision, as many men might seek to undergo the procedure after hearing of the study results. Gilks also said he is concerned that traditional healers might try to perform circumcisions without the proper training and without educating men about HIV/AIDS prevention methods (AP/Long Island Newsday, 7/27).
Kaisernetwork.org Webcasting Key Sessions
In partnership with IAS, kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the 3rd IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment, which began on Sunday and concludes on Wednesday. Kaisernetwork.org will provide daily webcasts of sessions and press conferences, as well as interviews with newsmakers, which are available to download for podcasting. The webcasts and interviews are available at no cost and without registration. Additional information about viewing webcasts and signing up for a daily e-mail update is available online, and organizations are welcome to link to kaisernetwork.org's conference coverage from their Web sites. Webcasts of Tuesday's sessions are now available online, including a plenary on prevention; the oral abstract presentations on sexual transmission, including Auvert's presentation and a press conference discussing the results; a forum on brand-name and generic drugs; and a newsmaker interview with Judy Auerbach, vice president of public policy and program development for the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Webcasts of Wednesday's sessions will be available online later today.