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Is this Bad Science

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Knowing how American christians hate foreskin I find this hard to believe:
Circumcision could prevent millions of AIDS cases in Africa: report
Tue Jul 11, 5:42 PM ET
PARIS (AFP) - The systematic circumcision of all boys in sub-Saharan Africa could potentially prevent nearly six million new HIV/ AIDS infections over the next two decades, a research team says in a published study.

The study, coordinated by Brian Williams of the World Health Organization (WHO) and published in the US review PLoS Medicine, is based on results of a trial conducted in South Africa, in which men were offered the chance to be circumcised. Those who chose to be circumcised had a lower HIV infection rate 18 months later.

Researchers say that their test shows a reduction in rates of infection, from women to men, of about 60 percent. Extrapolated mathematically, that would lead to a prevention of about two million new HIV infections in the next 10 years, and a further 3.7 million cases in the decade after that, while 2.7 million deaths could be prevented.

About a quarter of those numbers, both deaths and infections prevented, would occur in South Africa, they said.

The study builds on primary research led by co-author Bertran Auvert of France's Inserm medical research institute in the Orange Farm area of South Africa.

His group's work on 3,000 male cases provided a scientific demonstration of previous speculation that male circumcision could have an impact on the spread of AIDS, which is ravaging Africa.

Results from other trials in Uganda and Kenya are being gathered by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and are expected to be published in September 2007.

Some 38.6 million people are dealing with HIV or AIDS, some 24 million of them in Africa.

I've read a similar report and must admit that the science is sound as far as I can tell. It would do well to help prevent HIV as long as the people getting it understand that it isn't the same as a condom. It provides SOME protection, a little less than half. It could backfire if people believed they were immune...


I saw several reports that dismissed that study and many of the major medical periodicals refused to publish it for various reasons.  One big issue is that the circumcised group was heavily counseled to NOT have sex for 6 weeks AND to ALWAYS use a condom (including teaching on how to use a condom).  Who's to say that their lower rates of HIV incidence isn't simply due to detailed safer sex counseling and the demand that they use a condom for the first 6 weeks (after which they may be more likely to continue using condoms).  The non-circumcised group didn't receive any counseling, nor were they told not to have sex (or at least always use a condom) for the first 6 weeks.  The study had an efficacy rate of 60% (which doesn't seem that high).

My thoughts: South Africa has a high rate of circumcision and that doesn't seem to have provided that country with any significant protection against a high rate of HIV infections.  I'm doubtful this will do much.  Instead of focusing on circumcision, they should focus on safer sex messages/training.

Cliff, do you have a list of the periodicals that refused to publish the controversial study/studies? I'm very curious. Jay

This is significant. 

Adult male circumcision reduces transmission rates over 18 months comparable to a vaccine with 65% efficacy

Circumcision: a surprising benefit from an unkind cut (A NATAP report but the i-Base reprint to be kind to your eyes)

Of course, some people's going round saying circumcision prevents HIV infection. which is wrong.

- matt


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