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Does penile circumcision affect the risk of HIV transmission?

Penile circumcision has been associated with a reduced risk of HIV transmission in heterosexual men. The evidence for this association comes from multiple studies conducted in regions with high HIV prevalence. It’s important to note that while circumcision can offer some level of protection against HIV transmission, it does not provide complete immunity, and safer sex practices remain crucial for HIV prevention. Here’s what is known:

1. HIV and Circumcision:

  • Research indicates that male circumcision can reduce the risk of heterosexual male-to-female HIV transmission by around 60% or more in regions with high HIV prevalence.
  • The mechanism behind this reduction is not fully understood, but it might be related to the presence of cells under the foreskin that are susceptible to HIV infection. Circumcision removes these cells.

2. Circumcision and Male-to-Male Transmission:

  • While circumcision has been shown to reduce HIV transmission from heterosexual men to female partners, the evidence for its impact on male-to-male transmission is less clear. Some studies suggest that circumcision might offer some protection, but the level of protection is likely lower than in heterosexual transmission.

3. Safe Sex Practices:

  • It’s important to emphasize that circumcision alone is not a substitute for other preventive measures, such as practicing safe sex and using condoms, especially in regions with high HIV prevalence.
  • Consistent and correct condom use remains an important part of HIV prevention.

4. Regional Variation:

  • The impact of circumcision on HIV transmission can vary based on factors such as regional HIV prevalence, cultural practices, and individual behavior.

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