MC has been practised by many of Africa's ethnic groups for many centuries. It usually takes place in late childhood or early adolescence. A large trial in South Africa, published last year, suggested that being circumcised reduced the chance of men becoming infected with HIV infection by about 60%. Taking into account information on HIV infection rates and the prevalence of male circumcision across Africa, the researchers have calculated that, if all men were circumcised over the next 10 years, some two million new infections and around 300,000 deaths could be avoided. Looking at a variety of possible outcomes that might arise if MC is widely promoted and making calculations for 10, 20 and 30 years time, the researchers conclude that the protective benefit to HIV-negative men will be immediate but the full impact of MC on HIV-related illness and death will only become apparent further into the future. After 20 years, the researchers say the number of lives saved would be somewhere in the range 1.6 - 5.8 million.
Williams BG, Lloyd-Smith JO, Gouws E, Hankins C, Getz WM, et al. (2006) The potential impact of male circumcision on HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. PLoS Med 3(7): e262.
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· Caption: "Circumcision has been practised in many parts of the world for thousands of years. (From a bas-relief in the tomb of Ankhmahor at the Egyptian necropolis at Saqqara (ca. 2400 B.C.). Wellcome Institute Library)"
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