Saturday, September 1, 2007

Circumcision can offset AIDS, so encouraging procedure for African males is a wise course

Friday, August 31, 2007

Following up on major stud ies showing a greatly re duced risk of contracting AIDS among African men who had been circumcised, the Bush administration's new $15 billion anti-AIDS program will begin investing in the procedure.

The funding commitment marks a major turnaround since the administration previously cut money for an experimental circumcision program in Swaziland. But that was before findings were published last December from clinical trials conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The study found that new AIDS infections were 60 percent to 70 percent lower among Kenyan and Ugandan men who had been circumcised.

The findings were hailed by AIDS experts around the world, including those at the United Nations AIDS program and the World Health Organization. Although significant advances have been made in AIDS treatment, sexual abstinence and the use of condoms previously had been considered the only effective means of prevention.

Circumcision, experts said, could be a much more practical and effective approach in that it's a one-time procedure and is widely accepted throughout the world.

Ironically, circumcision of males was once widely routine as a tribal ritual of manhood in Africa, but was later discouraged by European missionaries who viewed it as primitive. Some tribes remain wary, but Kenya is showing significant leadership on the issue by planning to expand circumcision services.

A large part of the challenge now facing the international community is educating African nations on the findings, and training and equipping community workers and tribal leaders in conducting the procedure safely and with proper sanitation.

Despite the results showing circumcision greatly reduces the rate of contracting AIDS, experts note it's not 100 percent effective and that education must still emphasize the use of condoms and the increased risk from having multiple sexual partners.

Still, adding a major preventative tool to the arsenal needed to fight this insidious transmittable disease is a major development and one whose use should be encouraged.