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Another reason to support circumcision

July 21, 2011 |  6:59 pm

Countries in Africa have scaled up circumcision efforts to prevent the spread of HIV.

Circumcision is making headlines again, but this time on the other side of the globe. A successful circumcision campaign in South Africa worked to help decrease HIV infections in men by 76%, The Times reported. The results of the campaign could be a game-changer for countries with high HIV transmission rates. Clinical trials showed similar evidence, but the campaign demonstrated it in practice.

The procedure has been ramped up in sub-Saharan Africa since the World Health Organization's announcement four years ago that circumcision reduces a man's HIV contraction by 60%, according to NPR.

Despite the results of the South African campaign, researchers aren’t completely sure why the procedure has such positive results. Other studies have shown that the foreskin has a high concentration of cells affected by HIV, and circumcision prevents the growth of viruses and bacteria, according to The Times' Booster Shots blog. Now, the researchers are looking into whether the procedure has also benefited women.

The merits of the procedure have been hotly debated in California over the last few months as proposals to ban circumcision cropped up in San Francisco and Santa Monica (though the latter quickly disappeared). Some groups have said the procedure is mutilation, but The Times Editorial Board argued that the procedure is vastly different from the illegal and abusive female genital mutilation practiced by some cultures. The American Academy of Pediatrics cited potential evidence that circumcision provides health benefits, but there was not enough proof for a recommendation of the procedure, which, the board argues, should leave it to parents to decide. The San Francisco measure was discriminatory and an intrusion into family privacy, the board wrote, and was quickly met with propositions to ban the ban.

Unfortunately, the good news about circumcision came with some bad news about hormonal birth control: Women on the pill have nearly double the chance of contracting HIV or transmitting the virus if they already have it. At the same time, healthcare experts in the U.S. are calling for free preventive healthcare for women, which would include -- you guessed it -- birth control. About that…

RELATED:

Sex in the time of AIDS

The debate over circumcising baby boys

Overpopulation debate comes to one conclusion

AIDS: After 30 years, the battle is far from over

--Samantha Schaefer

Photo: A man waits to undergo a circumcision procedure at a clinic in Kenya. Credit: Tony Karumba/ AFP / Getty Images

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