Chicago, August 27: While male circumcision remains a potent weapon against the spread of HIV in heterosexual men in Africa, the procedure appears less effective for American gay men, according to the largest U.S. study to look at the issue.
On Tuesday, researchers from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented their findings at the 2009 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, saying circumcision offers no benefit to the gay American men.
Though circumcision, the removal of some or the entire foreskin from the penis, may help cut African heterosexual men’s risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, it is not effective in cutting the spread of HIV among American gay or bisexual men.
Dr. Peter Kilmarx, chief of epidemiology for the CDC's division of HIV/AIDS prevention and lead author of the study says that circumcision "is not considered beneficial" in preventing men who have sex with men (MSMs) from contracting the lethal virus.
According to a report from The Associated Press, the CDC researchers reached their findings after looking at nearly 4,900 men who had anal sex with an HIV-positive partner. They found that the infection rate of about 3.5 percent was nearly the same “whether the men were circumcised or not".
Dr. Kilmarx concluded that circumcision "doesn't help protect gay men" from HIV. "However, the CDC is still considering recommending it for other groups, including baby boys and high-risk heterosexual men," he said.
The government is still devising its recommendations on circumcision, which, according to the AP report, are expected to be released in 2010. The findings are expected to affect those recommendations. CDC is considering advocating the routine circumcision of baby boys to help cut their risks for HIV infection.
Dr. Kilmarx, who has defended government’s recommendation that all newborn males be circumcised in an effort to curb HIV infections, says: "We have a significant H.I.V. epidemic in this country, and we really need to look carefully at any potential intervention that could be another tool in the toolbox we use to address the epidemic.”
"What we’ve heard from our consultants is that there would be a benefit for infants from infant circumcision, and that the benefits outweigh the risks," added Dr. Kilmarx.
More on circumcision
Circumcision is the term used for surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis or prepuce. The word “circumcision” comes from the Latin word circum meaning "around" and caedere meaning "to cut" and medically means removal of the foreskin from the penis.
There is a common belief that circumcised men are less likely to suffer from penile cancer, inflammation of the penis, or have many sexually transmitted diseases.
Although there are existing scientific evidences that show the medical benefits of circumcision, the experts think that the benefits are not strong enough to recommended circumcision as a routine practice.