China Considering Evidence That Male Circumcision Could Reduce Risk of HIV Infection, Unlikely To Launch Campaign, Health Official Says
China is considering evidence that routine male circumcision could reduce a man's risk of HIV infection but likely will not implement such a campaign nationwide, Ru Xiaomei, deputy director general of China's National Population and Family Planning Commission, said on Friday, Reuters U.K. reports (Blanchard, Reuters U.K., 1/19). Data from two studies conducted in Kenya and Uganda released last month by NIH indicate that routine male circumcision could reduce a man's HIV infection risk through heterosexual sex by about 50%. According to researchers, male circumcision eliminates the cells most vulnerable to HIV. In addition, a circumcised penis develops thicker skin that is resistant to HIV infection. The results of the Uganda and Kenya studies were similar to the results of a study conducted in South Africa in 2005 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/14/06).
According to Ru, Chinese officials have seen the results of the studies conducted in Africa, but the "AIDS situation in China has not yet reached such a large scale (as in Africa)." She added, "I'm not yet totally certain about the evidence for circumcision. We should exercise caution." According to Reuters U.K., the number of circumcisions performed in China is low compared with some Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan and Indonesia. In addition, a wide-scale male circumcision campaign might encounter resistance from China's non-Muslim majority, according to Ru. She added that the cost of such a campaign might present an issue because of China's 1.3 billion population. "It would be a big deal," she said, adding, "It's much more reasonable to get people to use condoms" (Reuters U.K., 1/19).