June 3 (Bloomberg) -- Voluntary adult male circumcision has emerged in the past decade as a “critical” tool to prevent HIV infection, according to a United Nation AIDS agency study.
The 139-page report said male circumcision offers a 60 percent reduction in HIV risk and the benefits are life-long. The number of people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, rose 27 percent, to 33 million, between 1999 and 2009, according to the report.
More than 350,000 men in eight African countries agreed to lose their foreskins in 2010 to lower their chances of catching HIV, six years after some studies showed the procedure was effective, the report said. That compares with 100,000 men taking part in the procedure in 2009. The countries are Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Circumcision is the surgical removal of a skin that covers the tip of the penis. The UN-sponsored researchers say the pocket between the foreskin and the tip of the penis gives viruses and bacteria a spot to grow, and circumcision eliminates it. They also say foreskin has been shown in studies to be rich in cells that carry HIV into the body.
The World Health Organization, former president Bill Clinton and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are among the supporters of circumcision clinics in Africa.
Africa is home to two-thirds of people living with HIV/AIDs, WHO data show. The number of young girls between the ages of 10 and 14 living with HIV increased to more than 300,000 in 2010, from about 50,000 in 1999. Girls are five times more likely to become infected than young men, according to the UN AIDS agency report.
-- With assistance from Simeon Bennett in Singapore. Editor: Steven Komarow, Ann Hughey.
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