In a development that can be aptly regards as ‘path-breaking,’ in the battle against the fatal AIDS disease, a medical journal article published on Friday says that a data that is surely ‘beyond question’ shows there is no doubt that circumcision reduces men’s chances of catching HIV by up to 60 percent.
Considering the above mentioned idea, the one important question that’s sure to hit most of our minds is that how can this fact be made effective to fight AIDS across Africa.
The findings were first announced in December, when initial results from two major trials – in Kenya and Uganda – showed promising links between circumcision and HIV transmission. However, those trials were considered so perfect that the tests were halted early.
In the Kenyan study, 1,391 circumcised men were compared to 1,393 who were not. And in Uganda, 2,474 circumcised men were compared to 2,522 men who were not. Scientists tracked the men for two years and found that those who were circumcised were 51-60 percent less likely to contract HIV.
The full data from the trials, carried out by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, were published on Friday in The Lancet.
“This is an extraordinary development,” said Dr. Kevin de Cock, director of the World Health Organization’s AIDS department. Adding, “Circumcision is the most potent intervention in HIV prevention that has been described.”
Since long, circumcision – the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis, has been suspected of reducing men’s vulnerability to HIV infection because the cells in the foreskin of the penis are especially susceptible to the virus.
A modeling study last year projected that in the next decade, male circumcision could prevent 2 million AIDS infections and 300,000 deaths. Last year, 2.8 million people in sub-Saharan Africa became infected with HIV, and 2.1 million people died.
Experts say the breakthrough’s implication is on par with the identification of the virus and the use of lifesaving combination drug therapy.
The two U.S. studies confirm similar results from an earlier trial in South Africa.
However, experts caution that solid evidence is not explanation for mass circumcisions, noting that African health systems are already overburdened and circumcision requires more planning than, for example, an immunization campaign.
“It’s a tricky one, but it’s something we’re going to have to move on,” said Dr. Catherine Hankins, a scientific adviser at UNAIDS. “Male circumcision is such a sensitive religious and cultural issue that we need to be careful.”
Several African countries have met with U.N. agencies to explore strategies for increasing circumcision.
Together with the United Nations AIDS agency, WHO is organizing a meeting in Switzerland in March to evaluate the data and decide the next steps in slowing the AIDS pandemic.