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Thursday, March 29, 2007

UN calls for mass circumcision of men to tackle Aids epidemics

UN calls for mass circumcision of men to tackle Aids epidemics - Guardian


"The United Nations yesterday urged all countries with devastating Aids epidemics to launch mass male circumcision programmes following evidence that the surgical procedure can protect against HIV infection.

The World Health Organisation and UNAids, the joint UN programme on HIV/Aids, made the official recommendations after a meeting of experts in Montreux, Switzerland, to consider the evidence from three trials in Africa, which were stopped early when it became clear that men who had been circumcised were up to 60% less likely to get HIV than those who had not.

Experts accept circumcision is a sensitive issue, tied in to social and religious traditions. During sectarian fighting in India, Muslims and Hindus at one time would tell friend from foe by pulling down their trousers - all Muslims were circumcised.

But research suggests men and women in Africa would accept male circumcision if it lowered the risk of Aids, and WHO experts yesterday held out the prospect of cultural change over a decade or more. Catherine Hankins, associate director of the WHO, said that within about a decade in the 1980s and 1990s, South Korea went from no circumcision of boys to circumcising 90%, influenced by the example of the US."