Circumcision Shown to Deter HIV Spread; Studies Say It Reduces Infections by Half

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Byline: Tom Carter, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Circumcised men are at least 50 percent less likely to contract the virus that causes AIDS during unprotected sex than uncircumcised men, according to a soon-to-be released report by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Based on a systematic review of 28 scientific studies published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the USAID report "found that circumcised males are less than half as likely to be infected by HIV as uncircumcised men."

"A sub analysis of 10 African studies found a 71 percent reduction among higher risk men," said the report obtained by The Washington Times.

"There is really an incredible preponderance of evidence. There is really a strong association," between circumcision and HIV protection, Dr. Anne Peterson, assistant administrator for global health at USAID, said yesterday in an interview.

According to the scientific studies, the skin on the inside of the male foreskin is "mucosal," similar to the skin found on the inside of the mouth or nose. This mucosal skin has a high number of Langerhan cells, which are HIV target cells, or doorway cells for HIV.

The rest of the skin on the penis is more like the outer skin on the rest of the body, a barrier that protects against germs.

"HIV looks for target cells, like the Langerhans; it's a lock and key," said Edward G. Green, senior researcher at Harvard University, who has been looking at circumcision and HIV in Africa for 10 years. "The rest of the skin on the penis is armorlike."

He said that it is better to be circumcised as a baby, rather than as a teenager in "rite-of-passage" ceremony, because many teenage boys in Africa are already sexually active.

Mr. …