Controversies in Sexual Medicine: Male Circumcision and HIV Prevention



Introduction.  Growing evidence has linked circumcision with some protection against HIV infection. Should nations with a high HIV infection rate encourage male circumcision?

Methods.  Four people with expertise and/or interest in the area of circumcision and HIV were asked to contribute their opinions.

Main Outcome Measure.  To provide food for thought, discussion, and possible further research in a poorly discussed area of sexual medicine.

Results.  Three clinical trials in Africa showed the benefit of circumcision in reducing HIV incidence in men. Sadeghi-Nejad cites these, but balances this with the pandemic in India, and the cultural implications of circumcision. Pollack cites these studies as well, but reinforces the World Health Organization and UNAIDS recommendations that male circumcision should not replace safe sex. As a Nigerian, Aisuodionoe-Shadrach discusses the indirect ways in which circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV, and advocates the surgery, although he proposes infant circumcision may be wiser. Ira Sharlip, President of the International Society for Sexual Medicine, explains some of the physiology involved while again citing the three recent African studies. He questions who would be circumcised and who would perform the procedure if pro-circumcision policies were adopted.

Conclusion.  While three clinical trials in Africa were halted after it became evident that circumcision was beneficial in protecting against HIV, further information on the health risks and benefits of male circumcision is needed. Ethical decisions need to be made and medical recommendations developed before circumcision can be considered for HIV prevention. Vardi Y, Sadeghi-Nejad H, Pollack S, Aisuodionoe-Shadrach OI, and Sharlip ID. Controversies in sexual medicine: Male circumcision and HIV prevention J Sex Med 2007;4:838–843.