BEIJING, Dec. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- Circumcised adult men may reduce by half their risk of getting the AIDS virus through heterosexual intercourse, the U.S. government was quoted as announcing by media reports Friday.
"Male circumcision can lower both an individual's risk of infection, and hopefully the rate of HIV spread through the community," said AIDS expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Researchers studied about 5,700 HIV-negative men in Kenya and Uganda for more than two year and found the circumcised men who became infected with HIV were just 50 percent compared with the uncircumcised men.
Why would male circumcision play a role? Cells in the foreskin of the penis are particularly susceptible to the HIV virus, Fauci explained. Also, the foreskin is more fragile than the tougher skin surrounding it, providing a surface that the virus could penetrate more easily.
But it's not perfect protection, Fauci stressed. Men who become circumcised must not quit using condoms nor take other risks -- and circumcision offers no protection from HIV acquired through anal sex or injection drug use, he noted.
The link between male circumcision and HIV prevention was noted as long ago as the late 1980s. The first major clinical trial, of 3,000 men in South Africa, found last year that circumcision cut the HIV risk by 60 percent.