NIH Rules That Researchers Should Continue Studies in Kenya, Uganda on Effect of Male Circumcision on HIV Transmission
An NIH panel on Tuesday decided against halting two studies currently underway in Kisumu, Kenya, and Rakai, Uganda, examining the effect of male circumcision on HIV transmission, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A similar study conducted in South Africa was halted early when researchers determined that circumcision significantly reduced HIV transmission and that it was unethical to proceed without offering the option to all males in the study (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/29). According to the South Africa study, published in the November 2005 issue of PLoS Medicine, male circumcision might reduce the risk of men contracting HIV through sexual intercourse with women by about 60% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/25). The randomized, controlled clinical trial enrolled more than 3,000 HIV-negative, uncircumcised men ages 18 to 24 living in a South African township. Half of the men were randomly assigned to be circumcised and the other half served as a control group, remaining uncircumcised. For every 10 uncircumcised men who contracted HIV, about three circumcised men contracted the virus (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/5/05). The NIH committee overseeing the studies in Kenya and Uganda examined preliminary study results, which "remain a secret, even to the investigators involved" because the trial is blinded, and determined they should run to completion, according to the Chronicle. The Kenyan study involves 3,000 previously uncircumcised, HIV-negative men, half of whom underwent circumcision for the study. In September 2007, researchers will count the number of men in both groups who have contracted HIV. The Ugandan study, which involves 5,000 men and is being lead by researchers at Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University, is scheduled to be completed in July 2007. Robert Bailey, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois and leader of the Kenyan study, said he had known it was "highly unlikely" that NIH would halt the study, adding that the decision would not affect the study. The NIH decision means preliminary data will not be released at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, which is scheduled to take place in August. Bailey said the NIH panel might review the data again in six to eight months and reconsider the issue of halting the studies early (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.