Jodi - posted on 09/19/2010 ( 46 moms have responded )
The global fight against HIV/AIDS has found a powerful if unfashionable ally in male circumcision.
Research into the spread of the virus in Africa has revealed a reduced rate of transmission in those regions where male circumcision is the norm.
The practise rooted in religion and culture was increasingly seen as a "surgical vaccine" against HIV and must be part of efforts to curb the virus' spread, says harm minimisation advocate Dr Alex Wodak in a co-authored paper.
"A wealth of research has shown that the foreskin is the entry point that allows HIV to infect men during intercourse with an infected female partner," Dr Wodak said.
"Soon after the HIV pandemic was first recognised, much lower HIV prevalence was found in areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 80 per cent of males had been circumcised than in areas where the circumcision rate was less than 20 per cent.
"Circumcision of males is now referred to by many as surgical vaccine against a wide variety of infections and adverse medical conditions over the lifetime."
Dr Wodak said Medicare statistics show the percentage of Australian boys circumcised annually from 1998 to 2009 increased, from 13 per cent to 19 per cent, and this was despite "official discouragement".
He said Australia should have a policy of promoting infant male circumcision, domestically and across the region, in the face of rising heterosexual transmissions of HIV.
Male circumcision offered a protective effect for men during sex with a HIV positive female partner.
It did not, however, alter the risk of transmission of the virus during sex between men.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there is "compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60 per cent".
"The prospect of the availability of a (HIV) vaccine over the next 20 years is unlikely," Dr Wodak said.
"Condom use remains essential, with promotion of condom use plus circumcision of males being analogous to seatbelts plus airbags for reducing the road toll."
Dr Wodak, director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, co-wrote the paper along with Professor David Cooper, director of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, and Professor Brian Morris, Professor of Molecular Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney.
The paper is published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
I am well aware everyone here has different views on circumcision, but I am curious as to your views on the basis of these findings. With HIV being such a prominent problem in many African nations and other third world countries, is it really so objectionable?