July 11, 2006


Circumcision cuts the risk of HIV infection: study (Alexandra Shimo, The Globe and Mail, July 10th, 2006)

A study published Monday stated more than two million new HIV infections could be prevented over the next 10 years if African men were all circumcised. The report, in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, is built on data released last year that estimated male circumcision reduces HIV transmission from women to men by 65 per cent.

“We looked at what happened to the number of infections and the number of deaths assuming we achieved full coverage [every male was circumcised],” said Catherine Hankins, chief scientific adviser for the UN Program on HIV/AIDS, and co-author of the study. “We found there is a definite reduction in the number of infections and the number of deaths, in the range of 1.6- to 5.8-million people.”

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/Aids, which was involved in the study, is currently gathering information on the rate of circumcision and its social acceptability, to help countries decide whether they want to pursue a more active circumcision policy, said Ms. Hankins.

Now this is what we call a self-correction. It's marvellous how they can go from "no significant benefits" to prophylactic against a plague in just a few short years without missing a beat.

Posted by Peter Burnet at July 11, 2006 7:01 AM

This is a problematic article on several levels, e.g., for those who believe that the best way to fight the problem is to change behavior.

My own feeling is that they only published these findings because they want to see Andrew Sullivan go absolutely apoplectic.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at July 11, 2006 7:19 AM

I was going to write something about "cutting edge medical science," but that would be tasteless.

Posted by: Mike Morley at July 11, 2006 7:23 AM

Barry - Andrew would love this, because it assumes that the major vector for propagation of AIDS is heterosexual sex.

Posted by: pj at July 11, 2006 7:30 AM

But Andrew considers circumcision to be genital mutilation.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 11, 2006 8:08 AM

Um, isn't female-to-male infection very, very difficult? I'm awfully skeptical about these numbers...

Posted by: b at July 11, 2006 11:38 AM

B is correct to be suspicious, the article is conjecturing a reduction of female-to-male HIV transmission, which is orders of magnitude more difficult than the other way around.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at July 11, 2006 1:26 PM