A new study from researchers at the University of Puerto Rico offers some much needed data and several clearly worded challenges regarding the current push to circumcise men as a prevention strategy for STIs and HIV.
You might recall that research back in 2005 and again in 2008 with men in Uganda, South Africa, and Kenya found that circumcising adult men reduced their chances of acquiring HIV (and other STIs). Apparently the findings were so dramatic that that they actually stopped one of the major studies to circumcise all the men. The argument was that not circumcising all research participants would be unethical since circumcision provides such strong protective effect against STI and HIV transmission. Despite what was presented as very clear evidence, many questions remain.
Some of those questions are addressed, and even better some confounding data is offered, in an eloquent an clear discussion by Carlos Rodriguez-Diaz and colleagues working in both Puerto Rico and New York. Their paper reports on data from 660 men who were being seen at the largest HIV/STI prevention and treatment center in San Juan.
The men were asked a series of questions about their sexual histories and current STI status, and asked if they were circumcised or not. Then the researchers looked at those men who were circumcised and those who weren’t to see if being circumcised provided protection against HIV or other STIs.
What they found was that among their research participants being circumcised in and of itself did not provide any significant protective benefit against HIV or other STIs.
They caution that theirs is preliminary research, the first of its kind in the Caribbean, that they can’t explain why they found no benefits when research in Africa found such significant benefits, and in any case that the kind of research can’t be directly compared to the studies in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa.
But they have other cautions, which are equally important and I can only hope that their fellow researchers take note.
Read the rest of this excellent post from Cory Silverberg here.