Is There a Link between Circumcision and AIDS?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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Circumcision, the removal of the foreskin from the penis, does impact on the likelihood of transmission of the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Circumcision and AIDS are related as men who are circumcised are actually less likely than uncircumcised men to contract the disease. This may be due to the vulnerability of the foreskin to infection by the virus. The surgery itself does not cause AIDS.

A circumcision procedure is unlikely to pass on AIDS as normally there is no transfer of another person's bodily fluids to the patient. The HIV virus moves from person to person through blood, vaginal fluids, semen, and breast milk. As long as the procedure is performed properly, with clean instruments and disinfectants, the person undergoing circumcision will not get AIDS.

The recognized interplay between circumcision and AIDS may help countries that suffer from AIDS epidemics to lower the rate of infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a heterosexual man who is circumcised is 60 percent less likely than an uncircumcised heterosexual man to contract HIV. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also agrees that circumcision lowers the risk of HIV infection. As of 2011, the CDC does warn that the research on circumcision and AIDS only shows a reduced risk for vaginal intercourse and not for other forms of intercourse.

Although circumcised men may be at lower risk of developing AIDS than other men, the procedure does not effectively protect against infection. A circumcised man should still practice safe sex and undergo testing regularly if necessary. Circumcision also reduces the risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections that can help to spread AIDS. According to the CDC, evidence of a reduction in HIV transmission from a circumcised man to a female or male partner is unclear.

A foreskin has different properties than the skin around it. The inside is less dry and more susceptible to microscopic tears. These tears can occur during intercourse and allow viral particles through the protective skin barrier. The HIV virus targets specific cells, and the foreskin contains lots of these cells. The presence of a foreskin means that the man is also more likely to have other sexually transmitted infections, which increase the risk of HIV transmission.

The correlation between circumcision and AIDS points to the procedure as a useful tool in reducing the prevalence of the disease. The surgery does carry a small risk of infection. According to the WHO, less than one in 500 infants suffer complications from circumcision. Adult circumcisions are more risky, and up to four percent of these patients experience complications.

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Post 2

Meatal Stenosis (a condition that is induced by circumcision) is rarely discussed as a complication of circumcision. The 10 percent rate that is often stated only represents those cases that are severe enough to require a surgical intervention which itself can cause further disfigurement. This is a lifelong condition that follows the subject into adulthood.

Post 1

There is interesting info on circumcision and HIV at the circumcision website.

For example, there is a study that found that in eight of 18 African countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries, HIV prevalence is *higher* among circumcised men.

This is one of a number of reasons which make the circumcision reduces HIV argument look like a load of piffle.

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