Circumcision may reduce men's chances of contracting HIV by up to 60 percent, but early results suggest the procedure may put women at increased risk of infection. //
Early results announced at a U.N. consultation in Switzerland on the potential impact of male circumcision on AIDS in Africa suggested that if HIV-positive men do not abstain from sex while healing from circumcision surgery, their female partners might have a higher chance of catching HIV from them.
However, experts said the results were not conclusive _ and highly susceptible to other factors, such as condom use _ demonstrating the difficulties of utilizing circumcision in HIV prevention in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 60 percent of those with AIDS are women.
Previous studies have confirmed the dramatic impact circumcision has in cutting men's HIV infection rates, but a big question has been the resulting effect on women.
The first evidence _ though very preliminary _ suggests there is a period immediately following surgery when men may more easily transmit the virus to their female partners.
"Women are already so vulnerable in this epidemic," said Jennifer Kates, an AIDS expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation who is not connected to the study. "We need to be particularly careful about anything that could put them at even greater risk."
Researchers at the Rakai Health Sciences Program and Makerere University in Uganda and the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the U.S. tracked 997 HIV-positive men in Uganda and their female partners.
Among 70 men with HIV who underwent circumcision, 11 of their female partners became infected with the virus in the month after the surgery. In contrast, only four partners of 54 uncircumcised men with HIV in the control group caught the virus _ nearly half the rate, early results showed.
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