The WHO agrees, circumcision reduces HIV infection March 28, 2007Posted by Hegemony in Health, Science Rants.
My apologies for the lack of updates as of late. This post will be part science and part crazy tirade so bear with me. Be aware, parts of this may be a little graphic.
The World Health Organization has just announced that they will begin plans to increase the availability of circumcision to Africans. This comes after three studies have shown that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV for heterosexual men by at least half. That is downright significant. As it turns out, the foreskin is filled with a particular dendritic cell (a Langerhans cell) that HIV tends to infect upon being passed on.
So what is HIV? HIV is a virus, a retrovirus to be exact. It stores its genetic information as RNA and uses a viral protein called reverse transcriptase to make its RNA into DNA upon infecting a cell. The virus incorperates itself into the host cell’s genome. It multiplies when the host cell becomes activated and initiates its transcription factors. HIV can infect several types of immune cells but is particularly fond of helper T-cells which is where the majority of the damage is done. With no helper T-cells there is nothing to direct the immune response.
There have not yet been any studies on the effectiveness of circumcision on homosexual transmission but it can be assumed to a certain degree that it is beneficial. The WHO also recommends increased oversight of the procedures so that men know all the facts before undergoing the operation. Counseling would also be used to ensure these men do not become over-confident. This is solid science now people, no use arguing about it if you just don’t like the idea of circumcision. Which leads me to the crazy tirade… [clears e-throat]
Why in the holy crap do I hear so many people comparing circumcision to “female circumcision”? That’s really just a nice way of saying female genital mutilation (FGM). It’s just not the same thing; removing some external skin is not the same as FGM. It’s like they feel this gives some credence to their objections to compare it to a horrifying practice like female genital mutilation.
As far as I’m aware, a circumcised penis works pretty much the same. A victim of FGM on the other hand… has often had their clitoris removed, labia cut down, and the entire area slashed to promote the growth of scar tissue. This leaves a woman unable to become aroused and makes sex a painful, unpleasant experience. In what way does that sound like a simple male circumcision? Does that really sound like a reasonable comparison? I applaud this move by the WHO and can only hope that it helps us get ahead of the AIDS epidemic. I invite polite disagreement with me but abusive or obscene comments will be removed.