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1.  Modeling the Population-Level Effects of Male Circumcision as an HIV-Preventive Measure: A Gendered Perspective 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28608.
Evidence from biological, epidemiological, and controlled intervention studies has demonstrated that male circumcision (MC) protects males from HIV infection, and MC is now advocated as a public-health intervention against HIV. MC provides direct protection only to men, but is expected to provide indirect protection to women at risk of acquiring HIV from heterosexual transmission. How such indirect protection interacts with the possibility that MC campaigns will lead to behavior changes, however, is not yet well understood. Our objective here is to investigate the link between individual-level effects of MC campaigns and long-term population-level outcomes resulting from disease dynamics, looking at both genders separately, over a broad range of parameters.
Methods and Findings
We use simple mathematical models of heterosexual transmission to investigate the potential effects of a circumcision scale-up, combined with possible associated behavioral disinhibition. We examine patterns in expected long-term prevalence using a simple equilibrium model based on transmission factors, and validate our results with ODE-based simulations, focusing on the link between effects on females and those on males.We find that the long-term population-level effects on females and males are not strongly linked: there are many possible ways in which an intervention which reduces prevalence in males might nonetheless increase prevalence in females.
Since an intervention that reduces long-term male prevalence could nonetheless increase long-term female prevalence, MC campaigns should explicitly consider both the short-term and long-term effects of MC interventions on females. Our findings strongly underline the importance of pairing MC programs with education, support programs and HIV testing and counseling, together with other prevention measures.
PMCID: PMC3243682  PMID: 22205956
2.  Cost-Effectiveness of Newborn Circumcision in Reducing Lifetime HIV Risk among U.S. Males 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8723.
HIV incidence was substantially lower among circumcised versus uncircumcised heterosexual African men in three clinical trials. Based on those findings, we modeled the potential effect of newborn male circumcision on a U.S. male's lifetime risk of HIV, including associated costs and quality-adjusted life-years saved.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Given published estimates of U.S. males' lifetime HIV risk, we calculated the fraction of lifetime risk attributable to heterosexual behavior from 2005–2006 HIV surveillance data. We assumed 60% efficacy of circumcision in reducing heterosexually-acquired HIV over a lifetime, and varied efficacy in sensitivity analyses. We calculated differences in lifetime HIV risk, expected HIV treatment costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) among circumcised versus uncircumcised males. The main outcome measure was cost per HIV-related QALY saved. Circumcision reduced the lifetime HIV risk among all males by 15.7% in the base case analysis, ranging from 7.9% for white males to 20.9% for black males. Newborn circumcision was a cost-saving HIV prevention intervention for all, black and Hispanic males. The net cost of newborn circumcision per QALY saved was $87,792 for white males. Results were most sensitive to the discount rate, and circumcision efficacy and cost.
Newborn circumcision resulted in lower expected HIV-related treatment costs and a slight increase in QALYs. It reduced the 1.87% lifetime risk of HIV among all males by about 16%. The effect varied substantially by race and ethnicity. Racial and ethnic groups who could benefit the most from circumcision may have least access to it due to insurance coverage and state Medicaid policies, and these financial barriers should be addressed. More data on the long-term protective effect of circumcision on heterosexual males as well as on its efficacy in preventing HIV among MSM would be useful.
PMCID: PMC2807456  PMID: 20090910
3.  Cost-Effectiveness of Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention in a South African Setting  
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e517.
Consistent with observational studies, a randomized controlled intervention trial of adult male circumcision (MC) conducted in the general population in Orange Farm (OF) (Gauteng Province, South Africa) demonstrated a protective effect against HIV acquisition of 60%. The objective of this study is to present the first cost-effectiveness analysis of the use of MC as an intervention to reduce the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
Methods and Findings
Cost-effectiveness was modeled for 1,000 MCs done within a general adult male population. Intervention costs included performing MC and treatment of adverse events. HIV prevalence was estimated from published estimates and incidence among susceptible subjects calculated assuming a steady-state epidemic. Effectiveness was defined as the number of HIV infections averted (HIA), which was estimated by dynamically projecting over 20 years the reduction in HIV incidence observed in the OF trial, including secondary transmission to women. Net savings were calculated with adjustment for the averted lifetime duration cost of HIV treatment. Sensitivity analyses examined the effects of input uncertainty and program coverage. All results were discounted to the present at 3% per year.
For Gauteng Province, assuming full coverage of the MC intervention, with a 2005 adult male prevalence of 25.6%, 1,000 circumcisions would avert an estimated 308 (80% CI 189–428) infections over 20 years. The cost is $181 (80% CI $117–$306) per HIA, and net savings are $2.4 million (80% CI $1.3 million to $3.6 million). Cost-effectiveness is sensitive to the costs of MC and of averted HIV treatment, the protective effect of MC, and HIV prevalence. With an HIV prevalence of 8.4%, the cost per HIA is $551 (80% CI $344–$1,071) and net savings are $753,000 (80% CI $0.3 million to $1.2 million). Cost-effectiveness improves by less than 10% when MC intervention coverage is 50% of full coverage.
In settings in sub-Saharan Africa with high or moderate HIV prevalence among the general population, adult MC is likely to be a cost-effective HIV prevention strategy, even when it has a low coverage. MC generates large net savings after adjustment for averted HIV medical costs.
Based on data from a trial of adult male circumcision to reduce the spread of HIV, a modeling study shows this intervention to be a cost-effective strategy.
Editors' Summary
Preventing the spread of HIV is an enormous challenge of great importance worldwide. In 2005, HIV/AIDS was responsible for around 3 million deaths, of which approximately one-third were in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV is spread from one person to another in three main ways: through unprotected sex; through contaminated blood or blood products (for example when shared needles are used); and from mother to child (during pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding). Many strategies for preventing HIV focus on reducing risky behaviors. For example, condoms used correctly are effective at preventing HIV infection, and many countries now aim to promote condom use, together with other approaches that will reduce the risk of getting HIV. However, it is unlikely that strategies involving large-scale changes in behavior will ever be completely effective. Recently, much attention has focused on the possibility that circumcision might provide men with some protection against getting HIV. The results of a trial carried out in South Africa, the ANRS 1265 trial (published in PLoS Medicine in October 2005) seem to support this theory, and additional trials are being carried out in Kenya and Uganda. The results from these further trials will help determine whether, and to what extent, the effect of circumcision seen in the South African trial is true more generally.
Why Was This Study Done?
The investigators who had carried out the South African circumcision trial wanted to find out how the economic aspects of this prevention strategy would compare with other strategies for prevention of HIV. Specifically, they wanted to know how much male circumcision would cost overall, per HIV infection prevented, as compared with the cost of other strategies. They also wanted to understand whether circumcision would be “cost-saving.” In other words, would the cost of performing the operation (together with the cost of treating any adverse effects suffered by the men who were circumcised) be offset by the costs of treatment for HIV infections that the intervention prevented? Getting this information is crucial before health policy makers can decide what strategies for preventing HIV are most appropriate for their country.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In this study, the researchers carried out a set of mathematical calculations, using the results from the ANRS 1265 trial, together with some other data and background assumptions. Their model was based on a hypothetical group of 1,000 men, all of whom would be circumcised. The researchers calculated that in such a hypothetical group, the cost of providing male circumcision, per HIV infection prevented, would be around $180. Overall, this procedure seemed to be cost-saving when the cost of HIV treatment was also factored in; around $2.4 million would be saved for the 1,000 men circumcised.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that, assuming the results of the South African trial are generally true, male circumcision would reduce the cost of health care in South Africa, mainly through savings on the cost of HIV treatment. The overall cost of male circumcision, per HIV infection prevented, is reasonable as compared to the costs of other strategies for prevention of HIV. There would also be implications for HIV prevention programs in other African countries. However, these estimates are based on the data from one trial only. The World Health Organization does not currently recommend the promotion of male circumcision for prevention of HIV. Meanwhile, proven strategies for preventing HIV exist, and more information is available from the links below.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization has an HIV/AIDS program site providing comprehensive information on the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide
General information and resources from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on preventing HIV/AIDS
Fact sheet from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS about male circumcision and HIV
Results of the ANRS 1265 Trial evaluating male circumcision for HIV prevention were published in PLoS Medicine in October 2005; two related “Perspective” articles were also published in the same issue by Nandi Siegfried and Peter Cleaton-Jones
PMCID: PMC1716193  PMID: 17194197
4.  Acceptability of Medical Male Circumcision Among Uncircumcised Men in Kenya One Year After the Launch of the National Male Circumcision Program 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19814.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that male circumcision (MC) reduces the incidence of the Type-1 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among heterosexual men by at least half.
One year after the launch of a national Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision program in Kenya, this study conducted 12 focus group discussions among uncircumcised men in Nyanza Province to assess the revealed, non-hypothetical, facilitators and barriers to the uptake of MC.
The primary barriers to MC uptake included time away from work; culture and religion; possible adverse events; and the post-surgical abstinence period. The primary facilitators of MC uptake included hygiene; social pressure; protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; and improved sexual performance and satisfaction.
Some activities which might increase MC uptake include dispelling MC misconceptions; increasing involvement of religious leaders, women's groups, and peer mobilizers for MC promotion; and increasing the relevance of MC among men who are already practicing an HIV prevention method.
PMCID: PMC3095626  PMID: 21603622
5.  Randomized, Controlled Intervention Trial of Male Circumcision for Reduction of HIV Infection Risk: The ANRS 1265 Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2005;2(11):e298.
Observational studies suggest that male circumcision may provide protection against HIV-1 infection. A randomized, controlled intervention trial was conducted in a general population of South Africa to test this hypothesis.
Methods and Findings
A total of 3,274 uncircumcised men, aged 18–24 y, were randomized to a control or an intervention group with follow-up visits at months 3, 12, and 21. Male circumcision was offered to the intervention group immediately after randomization and to the control group at the end of the follow-up. The grouped censored data were analyzed in intention-to-treat, univariate and multivariate, analyses, using piecewise exponential, proportional hazards models. Rate ratios (RR) of HIV incidence were determined with 95% CI. Protection against HIV infection was calculated as 1 − RR. The trial was stopped at the interim analysis, and the mean (interquartile range) follow-up was 18.1 mo (13.0–21.0) when the data were analyzed. There were 20 HIV infections (incidence rate = 0.85 per 100 person-years) in the intervention group and 49 (2.1 per 100 person-years) in the control group, corresponding to an RR of 0.40 (95% CI: 0.24%–0.68%; p < 0.001). This RR corresponds to a protection of 60% (95% CI: 32%–76%). When controlling for behavioural factors, including sexual behaviour that increased slightly in the intervention group, condom use, and health-seeking behaviour, the protection was of 61% (95% CI: 34%–77%).
Male circumcision provides a degree of protection against acquiring HIV infection, equivalent to what a vaccine of high efficacy would have achieved. Male circumcision may provide an important way of reducing the spread of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa. (Preliminary and partial results were presented at the International AIDS Society 2005 Conference, on 26 July 2005, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)
The first trial of male circumcision for reducing the risk of HIV finds significantly lower new cases in the treatment group.
PMCID: PMC1262556  PMID: 16231970
6.  Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision: A Cross-Sectional Study Comparing Circumcision Self-Report and Physical Examination Findings in Lesotho 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27561.
Overwhelming evidence, including three clinical trials, shows that male circumcision (MC) reduces the risk of HIV infection among men. However, data from recent Lesotho Demographic and Health Surveys do not demonstrate MC to be protective against HIV. These contradictory findings could partially be due to inaccurate self-reported MC status used to estimate MC prevalence. This study describes MC characteristics among men applying for Lesotho Defence Force recruitment and seeks to assess MC self-reported accuracy through comparison with physical-examination-based data.
Methods and Findings
During Lesotho Defence Force applicant screening in 2009, 241 (77%) of 312 men, aged 18–25 y, consented to a self-administered demographic and MC characteristic survey and physician-performed genital examination. The extent of foreskin removal was graded on a scale of 1 (no evidence of MC) to 4 (complete MC). MC was self-reported by 27% (n = 64/239) of participants. Of the 64 men self-reporting being circumcised, physical exam showed that 23% had no evidence of circumcision, 27% had partial circumcision, and 50% had complete circumcision. Of the MCs reportedly performed by a medical provider, 3% were Grade 1 and 73% were Grade 4. Of the MCs reportedly performed by traditional circumcisers, 41% were Grade 1, while 28% were Grade 4. Among participants self-reporting being circumcised, the odds of MC status misclassification were seven times higher among those reportedly circumcised by initiation school personnel (odds ratio = 7.22; 95% CI = 2.29–22.75).
Approximately 27% of participants self-reported being circumcised. However, only 50% of these men had complete MC as determined by a physical exam. Given this low MC self-report accuracy, countries scaling up voluntary medical MC (VMMC) should obtain physical-exam-based MC data to guide service delivery and cost estimates. HIV prevention messages promoting VMMC should provide comprehensive education regarding the definition of VMMC.
PMCID: PMC3226626  PMID: 22140449
7.  Learning That Circumcision Is Protective against HIV: Risk Compensation among Men and Women in Cape Town, South Africa 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40753.
We examined whether knowledge of the HIV-protective benefits of male circumcision (MC) led to risk compensating behavior in a traditionally circumcising population in South Africa. We extend the current literature by examining risk compensation among women, which has hitherto been unexplored.
We used data on Xhosa men and women from the 2009 Cape Area Panel Study. Respondents were asked if they had heard that MC reduces a man’s risk of contracting HIV, about their perceived risk of contracting HIV, and condom use. For each gender group we assessed whether risk perception and condom use differed by knowledge of the protective benefits of MC using bivariate and then multivariate models controlling for demographic characteristics, HIV knowledge/beliefs, and previous sexual behaviors. In a further check for confounding, we used data from the 2005 wave to assess whether individuals who would eventually become informed about the protective benefits of circumcision were already different in terms of HIV risk perception and condom use.
34% of men (n = 453) and 27% of women (n = 690) had heard that circumcision reduces a man’s risk of HIV infection. Informed men perceived slightly higher risk of contracting HIV and were more likely to use condoms at last sex (p<0.10). Informed women perceived lower HIV risk (p<0.05), were less likely to use condoms both at last sex (p<0.10) and more generally (p<0.01), and more likely to forego condoms with partners of positive or unknown serostatus (p<0.01). The results were robust to covariate adjustment, excluding people living with HIV, and accounting for risk perceptions and condom use in 2005.
We find evidence consistent with risk compensation among women but not men. Further attention should be paid to the role of new information regarding MC, and drivers of HIV risk more broadly, in modulating sexual behavior among women.
PMCID: PMC3400649  PMID: 22829883
8.  Vasectomy as a proxy: extrapolating health system lessons to male circumcision as an HIV prevention strategy in Papua New Guinea 
Male circumcision (MC) has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV acquisition among heterosexual men, with WHO recommending MC as an essential component of comprehensive HIV prevention programs in high prevalence settings since 2007. While Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a current prevalence of only 1%, the high rates of sexually transmissible diseases and the extensive, but unregulated, practice of penile cutting in PNG have led the National Department of Health (NDoH) to consider introducing a MC program. Given public interest in circumcision even without active promotion by the NDoH, examining the potential health systems implications for MC without raising unrealistic expectations presents a number of methodological issues. In this study we examined health systems lessons learned from a national no-scalpel vasectomy (NSV) program, and their implications for a future MC program in PNG.
Fourteen in-depth interviews were conducted with frontline health workers and key government officials involved in NSV programs in PNG over a 3-week period in February and March 2011. Documentary, organizational and policy analysis of HIV and vasectomy services was conducted and triangulated with the interviews. All interviews were digitally recorded and later transcribed. Application of the WHO six building blocks of a health system was applied and further thematic analysis was conducted on the data with assistance from the analysis software MAXQDA.
Obstacles in funding pathways, inconsistent support by government departments, difficulties with staff retention and erratic delivery of training programs have resulted in mixed success of the national NSV program.
In an already vulnerable health system significant investment in training, resources and negotiation of clinical space will be required for an effective MC program. Focused leadership and open communication between provincial and national government, NGOs and community is necessary to assist in service sustainability. Ensuring clear policy and guidance across the entire sexual and reproductive health sector will provide opportunities to strengthen key areas of the health system.
PMCID: PMC3457912  PMID: 22943659
Male circumcision; HIV/AIDS; Papua New Guinea; Health system strengthening; No-scalpel vasectomy
9.  Roll-out of Medical Male circumcision (MMC) for HIV prevention in non-circumcising communities of Northern Uganda 
Recent studies have shown that circumcision reduces HIV/AIDS infection rates by 60% among heterosexual African men. Public health officials are arguing that circumcision of men should be a key weapon in the fight of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Experts estimate that more than 3 million lives could be saved in sub-Saharan Africa alone if the procedure becomes widely used. Some communities in Uganda have misconceptions to MMC and resist the practice.
To roll out MMC to a non-circumcising population of Northern Uganda from June 2011 as a strategy to increase access and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Circumcision in a non-circumcising communities of Lango and Acholi sub-regions with a population of about 0.5 million mature males 15-49 years. Enrolment was voluntary, clinical officers, nurses carried out MMC after training in the surgical procedure. Mass sensitization and mobilization was conducted through radios, community leaderships and spouses. Cervical cancer screening was incorporated at circumcision sites and used as incentive for the women. Circumcisions were conducted at static sites, camps and outreach services where VCT and adverse events (AEs) were recorded and managed. All clients assented/or consented.
A total of 26, 150 males were circumcised in eight months. The AEs rate was 1.2% and was mild. 2,650 women were screened for cervical cancer and positive test rate was 1.7%. Mobilization and sensitization were by radios and spouses’ involvement in cervical cancer screening exercise.
PMCID: PMC3810160  PMID: 24198894
Medical Male circumcision; Northern Uganda; scale-up of services; non-circumcising communities
10.  “After my husband’s circumcision, I know that I am safe from diseases”: Women’s Attitudes and Risk Perceptions Towards Male Circumcision in Iringa, Tanzania 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e74391.
While male circumcision reduces the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission and certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there is little evidence that circumcision provides women with direct protection against HIV. This study used qualitative methods to assess women’s perceptions of male circumcision in Iringa, Tanzania. Women in this study had strong preferences for circumcised men because of the low risk perception of HIV with circumcised men, social norms favoring circumcised men, and perceived increased sexual desirability of circumcised men. The health benefits of male circumcision were generally overstated; many respondents falsely believed that women are also directly protected against HIV and that the risk of all STIs is greatly reduced or eliminated in circumcised men. Efforts to engage women about the risks and limitations of male circumcision, in addition to the benefits, should be expanded so that women can accurately assess their risk of HIV or STIs during sexual intercourse with circumcised men.
PMCID: PMC3756960  PMID: 24009771
11.  Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision: Modeling the Impact and Cost of Expanding Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention in Eastern and Southern Africa 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001132.
Emmanuel Njeuhmeli and colleagues estimate the impact and cost of scaling up adult medical male circumcision in 13 priority countries in eastern and southern Africa, finding that reaching 80% coverage and maintaining it until 2025 would avert 3.36 million new HIV infections.
There is strong evidence showing that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) reduces HIV incidence in men. To inform the VMMC policies and goals of 13 priority countries in eastern and southern Africa, we estimate the impact and cost of scaling up adult VMMC using updated, country-specific data.
Methods and Findings
We use the Decision Makers' Program Planning Tool (DMPPT) to model the impact and cost of scaling up adult VMMC in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Nyanza Province in Kenya. We use epidemiologic and demographic data from recent household surveys for each country. The cost of VMMC ranges from US$65.85 to US$95.15 per VMMC performed, based on a cost assessment of VMMC services aligned with the World Health Organization's considerations of models for optimizing volume and efficiencies. Results from the DMPPT models suggest that scaling up adult VMMC to reach 80% coverage in the 13 countries by 2015 would entail performing 20.34 million circumcisions between 2011 and 2015 and an additional 8.42 million between 2016 and 2025 (to maintain the 80% coverage). Such a scale-up would result in averting 3.36 million new HIV infections through 2025. In addition, while the model shows that this scale-up would cost a total of US$2 billion between 2011 and 2025, it would result in net savings (due to averted treatment and care costs) amounting to US$16.51 billion.
This study suggests that rapid scale-up of VMMC in eastern and southern Africa is warranted based on the likely impact on the region's HIV epidemics and net savings. Scaling up of safe VMMC in eastern and southern Africa will lead to a substantial reduction in HIV infections in the countries and lower health system costs through averted HIV care costs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Every year, about 2.5 million people (mainly in sub-Saharan Africa) become infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Consequently, prevention of HIV transmission is very important. Because the most common HIV transmission route is through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of HIV infection by abstaining from sex, by having only one or a few partners, and by using male or female condoms. There is also strong evidence that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC)—the removal of the foreskin, the loose fold of skin that covers the head of the penis—reduces the heterosexual acquisition of HIV in men by about 60%. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) recommended that VMMC should be offered to men as part of comprehensive HIV risk reduction programs in settings with generalized HIV epidemics and low levels of male circumcision. They also prioritized 13 countries in eastern and southern Africa for VMMC program scale-up.
Why Was This Study Done?
The impact of VMMC scale-up in terms of HIV infections and AIDS deaths averted (epidemiologic impact) is expected to be large, and the intervention should also reduce the costs associated with the treatment, care, and support of infected individuals. However, VMMC scale-up will require substantial funding and considerable effort by countries—many of which have weak health systems and limited resources—to train personnel, equip facilities, and provide the necessary commodities. To support planning for VMMC scale-up, the United States Agency for International Development Health Policy Initiative has collaborated with UNAIDS to develop the Decision Makers' Program Planning Tool (DMPPT), a mathematical model that allows analysts and decision makers to estimate the epidemiologic impact and cost of alternative VMMC scale-up programs. In this study, the researchers use DMPPT to estimate the impact and cost of scaling up adult VMMC in the 13 priority countries in eastern and southern Africa.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers derived VMMC unit costs for each priority country based on a cost assessment undertaken in Zimbabwe, one of the first countries to scale up VMMC services using WHO's “Models for Optimizing Volume and Efficiencies” (MOVE) guidelines. They fed these costs and recent epidemiologic data (including HIV infection rates and the effectiveness of VMMC in preventing HIV transmission) and demographic data (including the adult population size and pre-scale-up male circumcision prevalence) collected in each country into the DMPPT, together with information on the lifetime costs of HIV treatment. Results from running the DMPPT model suggest that scaling up adult VMMC to reach 80% coverage in the 13 priority countries by 2015 would require 20.33 million circumcisions to be completed between 2011 and 2015. To maintain this coverage, a further 8.42 million circumcisions would be required between 2016 and 2025. Such a scale-up would avert 3.36 million new HIV infections through 2025 and would cost US$2,000,000,000 between 2011 and 2025. However, it would result in net savings (because of averted treatment and care costs) of US$16,510,000,000.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that rapid VMMC scale-up in eastern and southern Africa is warranted, given its likely impact on the region's HIV epidemics and the resultant cost savings. However, the accuracy of these findings depends on the assumptions built into the DMPPT and on the data fed into it. For example, there could be risk behavior changes after circumcision. That is, risky sexual behaviors may increase in men who have been circumcised. However, the researchers show that, except in Rwanda, post-circumcision risk behavior change is unlikely to completely reverse the benefits of VMMC. These modeling results also assume that men seeking out VMMC services are typical of the general male population, but if they are actually at unusually low risk of HIV infection, then the benefits of VMMC reported here are likely to be overestimated. Finally, these findings assume 80% VMMC coverage. This may be optimistic, although results from Kenya indicate that this target is achievable. Thus, countries and their international partners must allocate sufficient resources to VMMC scale-up to achieve high coverage rates if they are to take full advantage of the benefits predicted here for VMMC scale-up.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is part of a PLoS Collection of articles on and is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Review Article by Hankins et al. (
Information is available from WHO, UNAIDS, and PEPFAR on all aspects of HIV/AIDS; the 2011WHO/UNAIDS progress report on VMMC scale-up in the 13 priority countries is available
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, and information on male circumcision for the prevention of HIV transmission
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on all aspects of HIV prevention, and on HIV/AIDS in Africa (in English and Spanish)
The Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision, a resource provided by WHO, UNAIDS, and other international bodies, provides information and tools for VMMC policy development and program implementation, including information on the DMPPT and the MOVE guidance
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, through NAM/aidsmap, and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3226464  PMID: 22140367
12.  Circumcision preference among women and uncircumcised men prior to scale-up of male circumcision for HIV prevention in Kisumu, Kenya 
AIDS care  2011;24(2):157-166.
Following the endorsement by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) of male circumcision as an additional strategy to HIV prevention, initiatives to introduce safe, voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) services commenced in 2008 in several sub-Saharan African communities. Information regarding perceptions of circumcision as a method of HIV prevention, however, is largely limited to data collected before this important endorsement and the associated increase in the availability of VMMC services. To address this, we completed a community-based survey of male circumcision (MC) perceptions in the major non-circumcising community in Kenya, which is the current focus of VMMC programs in the country. Data was collected between November 2008 and April 2009, immediately before VMMC program scale-up commenced. Here we present results limited to women (n = 1088) and uncircumcised males (n = 460) to provide insight into factors contributing to the acceptability and preference for MC in those targeted by VMMC programs. Separate multivariable models examining preference for circumcision were defined for married men, unmarried men, and women. Belief in the protective effect of circumcision on HIV risk was strongly associated with preference for MC in all models. Other important factors included education, perceived improvement in sexual pleasure, and perceptions of impact on condom utilization. Identified barriers to circumcision were the belief that circumcision was not part of the local culture, the perception of a long healing period following the procedure, the lack of a specific impetus to seek out services, and the general fear of pain associated with becoming circumcised. A minority of participants expressed beliefs suggesting that behavioral risk compensation with increased MC prevalence and awareness is a possibility. This work describes the early impact of a large-scale VMMC program on beliefs and behaviors regarding MC and HIV risk. It is hoped that our findings may offer guidance into anticipating potential impacts that similar programs may observe in populations throughout Eastern Africa.
PMCID: PMC3682798  PMID: 21854351
HIV/AIDS; circumcision; sexual behavior; Africa
13.  Safety of over Twelve Hundred Infant Male Circumcisions Using the Mogen Clamp in Kenya 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47395.
Several sub-Saharan African countries plan to scale-up infant male circumcision (IMC) for cost-efficient HIV prevention. Little data exist about the safety of IMC in East and southern Africa. We calculated adverse event (AE) rate and risks for AEs associated with introduction of IMC services at five government health facilities in western Kenya.
AE data were analyzed for IMC procedures performed between September, 2009 and November, 2011. Healthy infants aged ≤2 months and weighing ≥2.5 kg were eligible for IMC. Following parental consent, trained clinicians provided IMC services free of charge under local anesthesia using the Mogen clamp. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were used to explore AE risk factors.
A total of 1,239 IMC procedures were performed. Median age of infants was 4 days (IQR = 1, 16). The overall AE rate among infants reviewed post-operatively was 2.7% (18/678; 95%CI: 1.4, 3.9). There was one severe AE involving excision of a small piece of the lateral aspect of the glans penis. Other AEs were mild or moderate and were treated conservatively. Babies one month of age or older were more likely to have an AE (OR 3.20; 95%CI: 1.23, 8.36). AE rate did not differ by nurse versus clinical officer or number of previous procedures performed.
IMC services provided in Kenyan Government hospitals in the context of routine IMC programming have AE rates comparable to those in developed countries. The optimal time for IMC is within the first month of life.
PMCID: PMC3474828  PMID: 23082162
14.  Newborn circumcision: an economic perspective. 
Canadian Medical Association Journal  1984;131(11):1353-1355.
The purpose of this study was to analyse the hypothesis that prophylactic circumcision of male newborns is economically beneficial to the health care system in Canada. The minimal dollar benefits that would justify this conclusion were determined. The cost of the procedure was calculated in three Hamilton, Ont. hospitals and found to average about $38. The health benefits of circumcision are uncertain, but a review of the literature suggested that penile carcinoma is the most serious (and costly) disease potentially prevented by circumcision. Published estimates of the incidence rates, age at onset and costs incurred as a result of this disease were used in calculations of the per-case cost of prevention: $13.6 million. The authors conclude that the monetary benefits of circumcising newborns will not exceed this cost. It is proposed that the procedure be regarded as cosmetic surgery and be paid for by parents who wish the procedure carried out rather than by taxpayer-funded health insurance plans.
PMCID: PMC1483656  PMID: 6437656
15.  Determinants of circumcision and willingness to be circumcised by Rwandan men, 2010 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:134.
Male Circumcision (MC) has been recommended as one of the preventive measures against sexual HIV transmission by the World Health Organization (WHO). Rwanda has adopted MC as recommended but the country is a non-traditionally circumcising society. The objective was to explore knowledge and perception of Rwandan men on Male Circumcision (MC) and to determine the factors associated with the willingness to be circumcised and to circumcise their sons.
This cross sectional study was conducted in 29 districts of Rwanda between January and March 2010. Data were collected using a structured questionnaire among men aged 15-59 years. The rate of MC was measured and its perception from respondents, and then the factors associated with the willingness to go for MC were analysed using multiple logistic regressions.
A total of 1098 men were interviewed. Among respondents 17% (95% CI 14-19%) reported being circumcised. About three-quarter (72%) could define MC, but 37% of adolescent could not. Half of the participants were willing to get circumcised and 79% of men would accept circumcision for their sons. The main motivators for MC were its benefits in HIV/STI prevention (69%) and improving hygiene (49%). Being too old was the main reason (32%) reported by men reluctant to undergo MC and younger men were afraid of pain in particular those less than 19 years old (42%). The willingness to circumcise was significantly associated with younger age, living in the Eastern Province, marital status, and the knowledge of the preventive role of circumcision.
Adolescents and young adults were more willing to be circumcised. It is critical to ensure the availability of pain free services in order to satisfy the increasing demand for the scale up of MC in Rwanda.
PMCID: PMC3299639  PMID: 22340083
Male Circumcision; HIV/AIDS; HIV Prevention; Rwanda
16.  A Model for the Roll-Out of Comprehensive Adult Male Circumcision Services in African Low-Income Settings of High HIV Incidence: The ANRS 12126 Bophelo Pele Project 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(7):e1000309.
Bertrand Auvert and colleagues describe the large-scale roll-out of adult male circumcision through a program in South Africa.
World Health Organization (WHO)/Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) has recommended adult male circumcision (AMC) for the prevention of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men from communities where HIV is hyperendemic and AMC prevalence is low. The objective of this study was to investigate the feasibility of the roll-out of medicalized AMC according to UNAIDS/WHO operational guidelines in a targeted African setting.
Methods and Findings
The ANRS 12126 “Bophelo Pele” project was implemented in 2008 in the township of Orange Farm (South Africa). It became functional in 5 mo once local and ethical authorizations were obtained. Project activities involved community mobilization and outreach, as well as communication approaches aimed at both men and women incorporating broader HIV prevention strategies and promoting sexual health. Free medicalized AMC was offered to male residents aged 15 y and over at the project's main center, which had been designed for low-income settings. Through the establishment of an innovative surgical organization, up to 150 AMCs under local anesthesia, with sterilized circumcision disposable kits and electrocautery, could be performed per day by three task-sharing teams of one medical circumciser and five nurses. Community support for the project was high. As of November 2009, 14,011 men had been circumcised, averaging 740 per month in the past 12 mo, and 27.5% of project participants agreed to be tested for HIV. The rate of adverse events, none of which resulted in permanent damage or death, was 1.8%. Most of the men surveyed (92%) rated the services provided positively. An estimated 39.1% of adult uncircumcised male residents have undergone surgery and uptake is steadily increasing.
This study demonstrates that a quality AMC roll-out adapted to African low-income settings is feasible and can be implemented quickly and safely according to international guidelines. The project can be a model for the scale-up of comprehensive AMC services, which could be tailored for other rural and urban communities of high HIV prevalence and low AMC rates in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed about 25 million people since 1981, and more than 30 million people (22 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone) are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Consequently, prevention of HIV infection is extremely important. Because HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of HIV infection by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few partners, and by always using a male or female condom. In addition, three trials in sub-Saharan Africa recently reported that medicalized adult male circumcision (AMC)—the surgical removal of the foreskin, a loose fold of skin that covers the head of the penis—can reduce HIV transmission rates in men by more than a half. Thus, AMC delivered as a catch-up campaign—in the long-term, circumcision of male infants is likely to be a more sustainable strategy—has the potential to reduce the prevalence of HIV (the proportion of the population infected with HIV) in sub-Saharan Africa.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) now recommend that AMC programs should be rolled-out wherever there is a generalized HIV epidemic and few men are circumcised. Accordingly, these organizations have defined a minimum package of AMC services and have issued guidelines and tools designed to engage communities in the roll-out and to ensure that appropriate AMC counseling and surgical facilities are available. But is rapid AMC roll-out feasible in real-life settings? Here, the researchers try to find out by studying the “Bophelo Pele” (Health First) project. This project, which follows the WHO/UNAIDS guidelines for AMC, aims to offer free, safe AMC services to all men aged 15 years or more living in the Orange Farm township in South Africa as part of a community-based intervention against HIV. Orange Farm is in a low-income region of South Africa where HIV prevalence is 15.2% and AMC prevalence is about 25%.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Before the Bophelo Pele project started in January 2008, the researchers consulted the community about the implementation of AMC, helped to create a community advisory board, organized community workshops to discuss the project, and surveyed people's knowledge about AMC and willingness to undergo AMC. These activities indicated a high level of community support for the project and a high level of willingness among men to undergo AMC. Once the project started, the researchers used multiple communication channels to tell the Orange Farm residents about AMC and broader HIV prevention strategies and provided eligible men with counseling about AMC and with voluntary HIV counseling and testing during the recruitment process. Three days after recruitment, eligible men were circumcised free-of-charge at the project's main center, where three teams of one medical circumciser and five nurses were able to complete up to 150 AMCs per day. By November 2009, 14,011 men had been circumcised (more than a third of the eligible men in the township), and AMC uptake was still increasing steadily. Nearly all the men circumcised over one 2-month period rated the AMC services positively in a survey and adverse effects (all mild) occurred after fewer than 1 in 50 circumcisions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the rapid roll-out of high-quality, free AMC as an intervention against HIV has been successful in the Orange Farm township. However, other findings highlight some of the challenges that face AMC roll-out. For example, only a quarter of the participants agreed to voluntary HIV counseling and testing, which is worrying because newly circumcised HIV-positive men have an increased risk of transmitting HIV if they resume sexual activity too soon after the operation. Similarly, only two-thirds of the participants returned for a check-up after circumcision; this proportion needs to be increased to ensure the safety and efficacy of AMC programs. Nevertheless, these findings and those from similar intervention programs in Kenya and Uganda indicate that AMC scale-up should be feasible, at least in the short term, as an HIV prevention strategy in low-income communities where there is a high HIV prevalence and a low AMC rate.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and infectious diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in South Africa, and on circumcision and HIV (in English and Spanish)
More information about male circumcision is available from WHO and from the Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision, including a June 2010 report from WHO/UNAIDS entitled Progress in male circumcision scale-up: country implementation and research update
More information about the Bophelo Pele project is available
PMCID: PMC2907271  PMID: 20652013
17.  Can HIV incidence testing be used for evaluating HIV intervention programs? A reanalysis of the Orange Farm male circumcision trial (ANRS-1265) 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:137.
The objective of this study was to estimate the effect of male circumcision (MC) on HIV acquisition estimated using HIV incidence assays and to compare it to the effect measured by survival analysis.
We used samples collected during the MC randomized controlled trial (ANRS-1265) conducted in Orange Farm (South Africa) among men aged 18 to 24. Among the 2946 samples collected at the last follow-up visit, 194 HIV-positive samples were tested using two incidence assays: Calypte HIV-EIA (BED) and an avidity assay based on the BioRad HIV1/2+O EIA (AI). The results of the assays were also combined (BED-AI). The samples included the 124 participants (4.2% of total) who were HIV-positive at randomization. The protective effect was calculated as one minus the intention-to-treat incidence rate ratio in an uncorrected manner and with correction for misclassifications, with simple theoretical formulae. Theoretical calculations showed that the uncorrected intention-to-treat effect was approximately independent of the value of the incidence assay window period and was the ratio of the number tested recent seroconverters divided by the number tested HIV-negative between the randomization groups. We used cut-off values ranging from 0.325 to 2.27 for BED, 31.6 to 96 for AI and 0.325-31.6 to 1.89-96 for BED-AI. Effects were corrected for long-term specificity using a previously published formula. 95% Confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by bootstrap resampling.
With the highest cut-off values, the uncorrected protective effects evaluated by BED, AI and BED-AI were 50% (95%CI: 27% to 66%), 50% (21% to 69%) and 63% (36% to 81%). The corrections for misclassifications were lower than 50% of the number of tested recent. The corrected effects were 53% (30% to 70%), 55% (25% to 77%) and 67% (38% to 86%), slightly higher than the corresponding uncorrected values. These values were consistent with the previously reported protective effect of 60% (34% to 76%) obtained with survival analysis.
HIV incidence assays may be employed to assess the effect of interventions using cross-sectional data.
PMCID: PMC2890001  PMID: 20507545
18.  Male circumcision for HIV prevention: current evidence and implementation in sub-Saharan Africa 
Heterosexual exposure accounts for most HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa, and this mode, as a proportion of new infections, is escalating globally. The scientific evidence accumulated over more than 20 years shows that among the strategies advocated during this period for HIV prevention, male circumcision is one of, if not, the most efficacious epidemiologically, as well as cost-wise. Despite this, and recommendation of the procedure by global policy makers, national implementation has been slow. Additionally, some are not convinced of the protective effect of male circumcision and there are also reports, unsupported by evidence, that non-sex-related drivers play a major role in HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, we provide a critical evaluation of the state of the current evidence for male circumcision in reducing HIV infection in light of established transmission drivers, provide an update on programmes now in place in this region, and explain why policies based on established scientific evidence should be prioritized. We conclude that the evidence supports the need to accelerate the implementation of medical male circumcision programmes for HIV prevention in generalized heterosexual epidemics, as well as in countering the growing heterosexual transmission in countries where HIV prevalence is presently low.
PMCID: PMC3207867  PMID: 22014096
19.  Adult male circumcision as an intervention against HIV: An operational study of uptake in a South African community (ANRS 12126) 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:253.
To evaluate the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about adult male circumcision (AMC), assess the association of AMC with HIV incidence and prevalence, and estimate AMC uptake in a Southern African community.
A cross-sectional biomedical survey (ANRS-12126) conducted in 2007-2008 among a random sample of 1198 men aged 15 to 49 from Orange Farm (South Africa). Face-to-face interviews were conducted by structured questionnaire. Recent HIV infections were evaluated using the BED incidence assay. Circumcision status was self-reported and clinically assessed. Adjusted HIV incidence rate ratios (aIRR) and prevalence ratios (aPR) were calculated using Poisson regression.
The response rate was 73.9%. Most respondents agreed that circumcised men could become HIV infected and needed to use condoms, although 19.3% (95%CI: 17.1% to 21.6%) asserted that AMC protected fully against HIV. Among self-reported circumcised men, 44.9% (95%CI: 39.6% to 50.3%) had intact foreskins. Men without foreskins had lower HIV incidence and prevalence than men with foreskins (aIRR = 0.35; 95%CI: 0.14 to 0.88; aPR = 0.45, 95%CI: 0.26 to 0.79). No significant difference was found between self-reported circumcised men with foreskins and other uncircumcised men. Intention to undergo AMC was associated with ethnic group and partner and family support of AMC. Uptake of AMC was 58.8% (95%CI: 55.4% to 62.0%).
AMC uptake in this community is high but communication and counseling should emphasize what clinical AMC is and its effect on HIV acquisition. These findings suggest that AMC roll-out is promising but requires careful implementation strategies to be successful against the African HIV epidemic.
PMCID: PMC3192707  PMID: 21943076
male circumcision; foreskin; uptake; acceptability; HIV-AIDS
20.  The PrePex Device Is Unlikely to Achieve Cost-Savings Compared to the Forceps-Guided Method in Male Circumcision Programs in Sub-Saharan Africa 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53380.
Male circumcision (MC) reduces the risk of heterosexual HIV acquisition in men by approximately 60%. MC programs for HIV prevention are currently being scaled-up in fourteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The current standard surgical technique for MC in many sub-Saharan African countries is the forceps-guided male circumcision (FGMC) method. The PrePex male circumcision (PMC) method could replace FGMC and potentially reduce MC programming costs. We compared the potential costs of introducing the PrePex device into MC programming to the cost of the forceps-guided method.
Data were obtained from the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society (NRHS), an MC service delivery organization in Kenya, and from the Kenya Ministry of Health. Analyses are based on 48,265 MC procedures performed in four Districts in western Kenya from 2009 through 2011. Data were entered into the WHO/UNAIDS Decision Makers Program Planning Tool. The tool assesses direct and indirect costs of MC programming. Various sensitivity analyses were performed. Costs were discounted at an annual rate of 6% and are presented in United States Dollars.
Not including the costs of the PrePex device or referral costs for men with phimosis/tight foreskin, the costs of one MC surgery were $44.54–$49.02 and $54.52–$55.29 for PMC and FGMC, respectively.
The PrePex device is unlikely to result in significant cost-savings in comparison to the forceps-guided method. MC programmers should target other aspects of the male circumcision minimum package for improved cost efficiency.
PMCID: PMC3549910  PMID: 23349708
21.  Economic Evaluations of Adult Male Circumcision for Prevention of Heterosexual Acquisition of HIV in Men in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Review 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9628.
There is conclusive evidence from observational data and three randomized controlled trials that circumcised men have a significantly lower risk of becoming infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The aim of this study was to systematically review economic evaluations on adult male circumcision (AMC) for prevention of heterosexual acquisition of HIV in men.
Methods and Findings
Studies were identified from the following bibliographic databases: MEDLINE (Ovid), EMBASE (Ovid), Cochrane Library (Wiley's internet version), NHS EED and DARE Office of Health Economics HEED. The searches were conducted in November 2009. The Drummond 10-point checklist was used for methodological critique of the economic evaluations. Cost data were inflated and converted to 2008 US dollars (US$). Of 264 identified papers, only five met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review. The studies were published between 2006 and 2009. Most of the studies were carried out from the perspective of government healthcare payer. The time horizon ranged from 10 to 20 years. All studies reported that AMC is cost-effective. The reported cost per HIV infection averted ranged from US$174 to US$2808. The key driver of the cost-effectiveness models was circumcision efficacy.
All published economic evaluations offered the same conclusion that AMC is cost-effective and potentially cost-saving for prevention of heterosexual acquisition of HIV in men. On these grounds, AMC may be seen as a promising new form of strategy for prevention of HIV and should be implemented in conjunction with other evidence-based prevention methods.
PMCID: PMC2835757  PMID: 20224784
22.  Effects of Genital Ulcer Disease and Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 on the Efficacy of Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention: Analyses from the Rakai Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(11):e1000187.
Ron Gray and colleagues analyze data from two circumcision trials in Uganda to assess how HSV-2 status and genital ulcer disease affect the procedure's ability to reduce HIV infection.
Randomized trials show that male circumcision (MC) reduces the incidence of HIV and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infections, and symptomatic genital ulcer disease (GUD). We assessed the role of GUD and HSV-2 in the protection against HIV afforded by MC.
Methods and Findings
HIV-uninfected men were randomized to immediate (n = 2,756) or delayed MC (n = 2,775) in two randomized trials in Rakai, Uganda. GUD symptoms, HSV-2 status, and HIV acquisition were determined at enrollment and at 6, 12, and 24 mo of follow up. Ulcer etiology was assessed by PCR. We estimated the prevalence and prevalence risk ratios (PRRs) of GUD in circumcised versus uncircumcised men and assessed the effects of HSV-2 serostatus as a risk-modifying factor for GUD. We estimated the proportion of the effect of MC on HIV acquisition that was mediated by symptomatic GUD, and by HSV-2 infection. Circumcision significantly reduced symptomatic GUD in HSV-2-seronegative men (PRR = 0.51, 95% [confidence interval] CI 0.43–0.74), HSV-2-seropositive men (PRR = 0.66, 95% CI 0.51–0.69), and in HSV-2 seroconverters (PRR = 0.48, 95% CI 0.30–0.79). The proportion of acute ulcers due to HSV-2 detected by PCR was 48.0% in circumcised men and 39.3% in uncircumcised men (χ2 p = 0.62). Circumcision reduced the risk of HIV acquisition in HSV-2 seronegative men (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 0.34, 95% CI 0.15–0.81), and potentially in HSV-2 seroconverters (IRR = 0.56, 95% CI 0.19–1.57; not significant), but not in men with prevalent HSV-2 at enrollment (IRR = 0.89, 95% CI 0.49–1.60). The proportion of reduced HIV acquisition in circumcised men mediated by reductions in symptomatic GUD was 11.2% (95% CI 5.0–38.0), and the proportion mediated by reduced HSV-2 incidence was 8.6% (95% CI −1.2 to 77.1).
Circumcision reduced GUD irrespective of HSV-2 status, but this reduction played only a modest role in the protective effect of circumcision on HIV acquisition.
NIH Trial registration NCT00425984
Gates Foundation Trial registration NCT00124878
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since 1981, and more than 30 million people (22 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone) are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Consequently, prevention of HIV transmission is extremely important. Because HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few partners, and by always using a male or female condom. In addition, three large trials in sub-Saharan Africa (including one in Rakai, Uganda) recently reported that male circumcision—the removal of the foreskin, a loose fold of skin that covers the head of the penis—can halve HIV transmission rates in men. Thus, as part of its HIV prevention strategy, the World Health Organization now recommends that male circumcision programs be scaled up in countries where there is a generalized HIV epidemic and where few men are circumcised.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is still not clear why male circumcision reduces HIV acquisition in men. Certainly, the foreskin contains many cells that HIV can infect and the foreskin's delicate lining is thought to be particularly vulnerable to HIV infection partly because intercourse can cause small tears in it through which HIV can enter the body. But male circumcision also reduces genital ulcer disease—sores on the penis and other genital organs caused by infection with several sexually transmitted organisms including the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Genital ulcer disease, particularly when caused by HSV-2, is thought to increase a person's risk of acquiring HIV, so could male circumcision reduce HIV transmission rates because of its beneficial effects on genital ulcer disease rather than through its removal of foreskin tissue with its rich source of HIV target cells? In this study, the researchers investigate this question by re-analyzing data collected in two Ugandan trials of male circumcision for HIV prevention.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Ugandan trials, the researchers randomly assigned about 5,500 HIV-uninfected men to immediate circumcision or to circumcision 24 months later. At enrollment, they asked the men whether they had any symptoms of genital ulcer disease (for example, a painful penile sore or genital itching), examined the men's genital areas, and took blood samples to test for HSV-2 infection. The researchers repeated these examinations and tests at 6 months, 12 months, and 24 months and tested the study participants for HIV infection. The researchers' statistical analysis of these data shows that circumcision approximately halved symptomatic genital ulcer disease in the study participants irrespective of their HSV-2 infection status. Circumcision reduced the risk of HIV acquisition in men without HSV-2 infection by two-thirds but did not affect HIV acquisition among men infected with HSV-2 at enrollment. Among the men who became infected with HSV-2 during the study, circumcision reduced the risk of HIV acquisition but this reduction in risk was not statistically significant. That is, it could have happened by chance. Finally, the researchers calculated that 11.2% of the observed reduction in HIV acquisition associated with circumcision was mediated by reductions in symptomatic genital ulcer disease and 8.6% was mediated by reductions in HSV-2 infections.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study are limited by the small number of people in some of the subgroups analyzed and by genital ulcer disease being self-reported. Furthermore, the validity of some of the findings may be compromised because the analysis described here was not specified in the original trial protocol. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the reduction of genital ulceration following circumcision plays only a minor part in the ability of male circumcision to reduce HIV acquisition in men. They also suggest that circumcision reduces genital ulcer disease primarily by reducing the rate of nonherpetic ulceration, including sores caused by mild trauma during intercourse. Thus, the researchers conclude, most of the reduction in HIV acquisition provided by male circumcision may be attributable to the removal of vulnerable foreskin tissue containing HIV target cells.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in Uganda, and on circumcision and HIV (in English and Spanish)
More information about male circumcision is available from the Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision
Information on the Rakai HIV prevention trial is available
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on male genital sores (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information about genital herpes
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on genital herpes (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2771764  PMID: 19936044
23.  Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision: An HIV Prevention Priority for PEPFAR 
As the science demonstrating strong evidence for voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) for HIV prevention has evolved, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has collaborated with international agencies, donors, and partner country governments supporting VMMC programming. Mathematical models forecast that quickly reaching a large number of uncircumcised men with VMMC in strategically chosen populations may dramatically reduce community-level HIV incidence and save billions of dollars in HIV care and treatment costs. Because VMMC is a 1-time procedure that confers life-long partial protection against HIV, programs for adult men are vital short-term investments with long-term benefits. VMMC also provides a unique opportunity to reach boys and men with HIV testing and counseling services and referrals for other HIV services, including treatment. After formal recommendations by WHO in 2007, priority countries have pursued expansion of VMMC. More than 1 million males have received VMMC thus far, with the most notable successes coming from Kenya’s Nyanza Province. However, a myriad of necessary cultural, political, and ethical considerations have moderated the pace of overall success. Because many millions more uncircumcised men would benefit from VMMC services now, US President Barack Obama committed PEPFAR to provide 4.7 million males with VMMC by 2014. Innovative circumcision methods—such as medical devices that remove the foreskin without injected anesthesia and/or sutures—are being rigorously evaluated. Incorporation of safe innovations into surgical VMMC programs may provide the opportunity to reach more men more quickly with services and dramatically reduce HIV incidence for all.
PMCID: PMC3663585  PMID: 22797745
male circumcision; HIV prevention; PEPFAR
24.  Will circumcision provide even more protection from HIV to women and men? New estimates of the population impact of circumcision interventions 
Mathematical modelling has indicated that expansion of male circumcision services in high HIV prevalence settings can substantially reduce population-level HIV transmission. However, these projections need revision to incorporate new data on the effect of male circumcision on the risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV.
Recent data on the effect of male circumcision during wound healing and the risk of HIV transmission to women were synthesised based on four trials of circumcision among adults and new observational data of HIV transmission rates in stable partnerships from men circumcised at younger ages. New estimates were generated for the impact of circumcision interventions in two mathematical models, representing the HIV epidemics in Zimbabwe and Kisumu, Kenya. The models did not capture the interaction between circumcision, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
An increase in the risk of HIV acquisition and transmission during wound healing is unlikely to have a major impact of circumcision interventions. However, it was estimated that circumcision confers a 46% reduction in the rate of male-to-female HIV transmission. If this reduction begins 2 years after the procedure, the impact of circumcision is substantially enhanced and accelerated compared with previous projections with no such effect—increasing by 40% the infections averted by the intervention overall and doubling the number of infections averted among women.
Communities, and especially women, may benefit much more from circumcision interventions than had previously been predicted, and these results provide an even greater imperative to increase scale-up of safe male circumcision services.
PMCID: PMC3272710  PMID: 20966458
HIV; mathematical model; circumcision; Epidemiology; Africa
25.  A 'snip' in time: what is the best age to circumcise? 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:20.
Circumcision is a common procedure, but regional and societal attitudes differ on whether there is a need for a male to be circumcised and, if so, at what age. This is an important issue for many parents, but also pediatricians, other doctors, policy makers, public health authorities, medical bodies, and males themselves.
We show here that infancy is an optimal time for clinical circumcision because an infant's low mobility facilitates the use of local anesthesia, sutures are not required, healing is quick, cosmetic outcome is usually excellent, costs are minimal, and complications are uncommon. The benefits of infant circumcision include prevention of urinary tract infections (a cause of renal scarring), reduction in risk of inflammatory foreskin conditions such as balanoposthitis, foreskin injuries, phimosis and paraphimosis. When the boy later becomes sexually active he has substantial protection against risk of HIV and other viral sexually transmitted infections such as genital herpes and oncogenic human papillomavirus, as well as penile cancer. The risk of cervical cancer in his female partner(s) is also reduced. Circumcision in adolescence or adulthood may evoke a fear of pain, penile damage or reduced sexual pleasure, even though unfounded. Time off work or school will be needed, cost is much greater, as are risks of complications, healing is slower, and stitches or tissue glue must be used.
Infant circumcision is safe, simple, convenient and cost-effective. The available evidence strongly supports infancy as the optimal time for circumcision.
PMCID: PMC3359221  PMID: 22373281
Circumcision; Public health; Surgery; Infant health; Adolescent health; Foreskin; Urinary tract infections; Sexually transmitted infections; Penile cancer; Cervical cancer; Dermatology; Psychology

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