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By: RSC Editorial Team

March 4, 2023

Does Circumcision Prevent HIV in Men?

Medical circumcision remains a highly contentious subject in the U.S. Over the last 20 years, the number of American infant males being circumcised at birth has been steadily declining.

Many new parents and even physicians have taken a stance against circumcision in recent years. For some medical professionals, this trend is alarming as researchers uncover more evidence in favor of using circumcision for the prevention of STDs.

It’s a controversial issue: Does circumcision prevent HIV in men? To stay safe, you need to know the facts. This article will discuss the risks and potential health benefits of circumcision and whether or not it’s effective in preventing STDs.

What You Need to Know About Circumcision

Circumcision is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the foreskin, or the skin covering the head of the penis. In most cases, doctors perform the procedure within the first 48 hours after a male baby is born, though some adults do opt to undergo the surgery as well.

Benefits of Circumcision

Are there any benefits to circumcision? Despite the increasing concern about the potentially negative effects of circumcision, there’s a wealth of evidence that suggests the procedure could provide several health benefits, including but not limited to the following:

  • Improved personal hygiene: Circumcised males may have an easier time washing their penis.
  • Decreased risk of infection: While circumcision doesn’t wholly prevent any form of infection, it can reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and STDs. 
  • Reduced risk of penile cancer: Statistically, penile cancer is uncommon, but it’s less likely to develop in circumcised men. Likewise, female partners of circumcised men are less likely to develop cervical cancer.

What does circumcision prevent? Circumcised men are at a lower risk of infections due to poor hygiene and STDs. Still, while circumcision can reduce the risk of STDs, it can’t entirely prevent them. Whether you’re circumcised or not, if you think you have an STD, same-day STD testing with Rapid STD Testing can provide quick, accurate results.

Associated Risks

As with any surgery, there are certain risks associated with circumcision. These rare risks include the following:

  • Bleeding following the procedure
  • Infection
  • More or less skin removed than intended
  • Scar tissue formation

Generally, doctors can easily treat any infections that occur following circumcision. Likewise, while some have raised concerns about reduced penile sensitivity and sexual dysfunction later in life, no studies have proven these claims to be true.

HIV Prevention and Circumcision

Given the unfortunate number of STD myths and the rampant misinformation floating around on the internet, it’s important to seek out accurate information regarding sexual health and safety. 

Does circumcision prevent HIV? Not exactly, though it may decrease your risk of contracting HIV. 

Between 2005 and 2007, researchers conducted a randomized trial in Africa to determine if there was any correlation between circumcision and decreased rates of HIV. The studies showed that circumcision status played a role in the transmission rates of HIV. 

According to these trials, the risk of vaginal-to-penile HIV transmission may decrease by 51% to 60% for an HIV-negative man engaging in sexual intercourse with an HIV-positive female partner.

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a document regarding voluntary circumcision for HIV prevention. Following a period of systematic review and meta-analysis, the CDC advised health care providers to inform uncircumcised male patients that circumcision could reduce the risk of contracting HIV and other STDs during heterosexual intercourse. 

It’s important to note that most of the research surrounding this subject is limited to vaginal-penile transmission. Data from observation research studies reveals that circumcision may decrease the risk of HIV transmission for gay and bisexual males who primarily fulfill the insertive role in anal sex.

However, the evidence is extremely limited and inconclusive, as clinical trials haven’t included a large enough pool of gay and bisexual male participants. Likewise, no evidence yet exists to suggest that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV for males who fulfill the receiving role in anal sex.

The key detail in all of the existing data is that while circumcision can reduce the risk of HIV contraction, it cannot completely prevent it.

What Are the Chances of Getting HIV for Uncircumcised Men?

The exact transmission risk for uncircumcised men is unclear, but research suggests that HIV transmission may be higher among uncircumcised males due to bacterial growth under the foreskin. Certain bacteria may inhibit the skin’s ability to defend against infection, which may increase uncircumcised men’s risk of contracting HIV.

This is yet another reminder that getting routine STD testing is an essential component of protecting yourself against STDs. A rapid STD test from Rapid STD Testing can give you the answers you’re looking for and help you take control of your sexual health.

What Other STDs Does Circumcision Prevent?

2013 review by the National Library of Medicine concluded that male circumcision may reduce the risk of STD contraction in circumcised men. In particular, the review examined whether circumcision could serve as a preventative measure against genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and genital ulcer disease. 

Researchers found that circumcision could reduce the risk of transmission during vaginal-penile intercourse, but the results remain unclear for men who have sex with men. Some research suggests that male circumcision can reduce the chances of female partners contracting HPV, trichomoniasis, and bacterial vaginosis, but the data available is limited. 

If you’re curious about your sexual health status and want to learn more, contact your healthcare provider, or check out Rapid STD Testing’s 10-panel STD test to get comprehensive results.

Weighing the Risks

Circumcision remains a highly debated topic among parents, patients, and some physicians. Some opponents of the procedure express concern about the conclusiveness of existing clinical research regarding circumcision and the prevention of HIV, while others worry about the implications of recommending circumcision as a first line of defense against STDs. 

Specifically, certain groups worry that increased emphasis on circumcision and STD prevention will lead to decreased contraception usage, which could lead to increased unwanted pregnancies. 

However, a systematic review by the National Library of Medicine in 2018 stated that male circumcision doesn’t appear to influence condom usage. In fact, the review also states that the benefits of STD reduction associated with circumcision are “well established,” and condom usage among participants in the study didn’t significantly change in the 24 months following the initial research.

While it’s true that circumcision is not entirely preventative (it can reduce but not stop the spread of STDs), the procedure is completely voluntary. Physicians cannot require circumcision for prevention of HIV in adult or infant males. They can only inform parents and patients about the potential health benefits associated with circumcision. 

However, adult males considering the procedure should assess the potential risks before going through with it. The risks associated with the procedure may increase for older males, which may deter some from pursuing circumcision, given it doesn’t entirely prevent HIV.

Ultimately, the decision lies between you and your doctor. It’s best to consult with your healthcare provider before making any decisions regarding circumcision as an adult man or as a parent. Your physician can weigh the benefits and the risks according to your health needs and body.

Other Ways to Prevent STDs

If you find yourself unsatisfied with the answer to the question, “Does circumcision prevent HIV?” know that you have several more effective STD prevention options that don’t involve adult male circumcision. 

HIV spreads through bodily fluids like blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk. To decrease your risk of contracting HIV, use condoms during sex. If you administer injections to yourself, use clean needles and materials. It’s critical that you never share your needles or injection materials with others.

Other ways to protect yourself from HIV include the following:

  • Getting regularly tested for HIV
  • Limiting the number of your sexual partners or practicing monogamy
  • Talking to your doctor about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is an HIV prevention medicine for those who face a higher risk of contracting HIV

You can employ similar methods of prevention to reduce your risk of contracting other STDs. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to get vaccinated against STDs like HPV and hepatitis B.

Stay Informed with Rapid STD Testing

Knowing the answer to the question, “Does circumcision prevent HIV?” can help you make more informed decisions about your sexual health. While circumcision can reduce the risk of HIV, the best way to prevent HIV or any STD is to practice safe sex and get tested regularly. If you’d like to know your STD status, contact Rapid STD Testing today at (866) 872-1888, or use our handy location tool to find a testing center near you.

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By: RSC Editorial Team
March 4, 2023

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