Need to explore acceptability of circumcision: HIV experts

Male circumcision can be a preventive tool against HIV, experts have said.

Updated: Feb 11, 2011, 19:17 PM IST

Mumbai: Male circumcision can be a preventive tool against HIV and there is a need to explore its acceptability in India, experts have said.
Rate of HIV infections is coming down, but the development of a vaccine is still a remote prospect, so other preventive methods should be considered, says a research paper presented at a recently-concluded conference on HIV.

"As male circumcision has emerged as an effective HIV prevention option there is a need to explore its acceptability in India," the preliminary report prepared by researchers from Pune-based National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) says.

The group of researchers headed by Dr Seema Sahay also found, upon analysis of a study done by a task-force set up by Indian Council of Medical Research that people would find it hard to accept circumcision for the purpose of HIV prevention.

"Therefore, focus would be needed on developing the communication strategies around translating evidence into community-friendly messages on efficiency of male circumcision to prevent HIV among men," report says.

While doing this, cultural issues and traditional sensitivities should be taken into account, it adds.

The report was presented at the International Conference on `Emerging Frontiers and challenges in HIV/AIDS Research`.

Male circumcision involves the surgical removal of the foreskin, which is a low-cost and permanent procedure.

An international study in 2005 found that it reduces risk of contracting HIV among men by 70 per cent.

The ICMR study was for understanding the views of the people (from both `traditionally circumcising` and `traditionally non-circumcising` communities) as well as that of the health-care providers, regarding male circumcision and other options, Sahay said.

The study showed that communities may accept circumcision as a hygienic practice but would still oppose it on religious grounds, she said.

But when asked if any study has been done to find out if incidence of HIV was low in the communities where circumcision is a common practise, she said, "We have not conducted any religion-specific study."

NARI is currently conducting a study to gauge the response of various communities. The findings will be shared with the policy makers.

In 2005, a study by French and South African researchers showed that male circumcision reduced the risk of contracting HIV by 70 per cent -- a level of protection far higher than the 30 per cent risk-reduction which is the target of the AIDS vaccine.