Does Circumcision Prevent HIV and AIDS?

Last Editorial Review: 1/11/2018

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I've heard that circumcision can prevent HIV and AIDS? True?

Doctor's response

The risk of heterosexual HIV infection is 2 to 8 times higher for uncircumcised men than for men who have been circumcised. This increased risk of HIV infection appears attributable to the foreskin of the penis which provides a vulnerable portal of entry to HIV and other disease-causing organisms.

he foreskin is susceptible to small scratches and tears during intercourse and contains a high density of Langerhans cells which are primary target cells for HIV. A foreskin also increases a man's risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis, herpes, and chancroid that are known cofactors for HIV infection. The fact that circumcision may help prevent HIV and other STDs needs to figure in the decision whether a boy (or man) should be circumcised.

While circumcision may reduce the risk of HIV, it does not by any means provide full protection against HIV infection. Circumcision cannot and does not eliminate the risk of HIV infection and AIDS. (Reference: Lancet 1999;354:1813-1815.)