Turns out the answer is no.
A new study published August 1, 2018 in PLoS One suggests that medically circumcised men over 40 carry higher rates of HIV than intact men or men circumcised as part of an initiation ritual earlier in life.
The authors conclude:
Medically circumcised older men in a rural South African community had higher HIV prevalence than uncircumcised men, suggesting that the effect of selection into circumcision may be stronger than the biological efficacy of circumcision in preventing HIV acquisition. The impression given from circumcision policy and dissemination of prior trial findings that those who are circumcised are safer sex partners may be incorrect in this age group and needs to be countered by interventions, such as educational campaigns.
The unstated fact is that men will not opt for circumcision unless it is protective standing alone. Those who do opt for it believe it is. And as such, these circumcised men generally cannot be counted on to adhere to all the other prevention practices and messages when they believe circumcision is protective by itself.
Evidence on the ground, and more formal research generally, will surely bear out the fact that circumcision as a risk reduction measure is incompatible with all the other risk reduction messages and practices, given the loss that circumcision necessarily entails.
And hence, you have the foundation for why infant circumcision is the new focus and emphasis of male circumcision campaigns in Africa. Infant circumcision is the antithesis of voluntary medical male circumcision or VMMC. The proponents of circumcision have shifted their focus. I expect this study will be leveraged in their argument to force circumcision on infants, a population without the capacity to consent or resist.
(As an aside, I would speculate that the reason circumcised men who participate in circumcision initiation rites have lower rates of HIV is because they also are part of a larger culture that reinforces other messages of sexual restraint.)
Citation: Rosenberg MS, Gomez-Olive FX, Rohr JK, Kahn K, Barnighausen TW (2018) Are circumcised men safer sex partners? Findings from the HAALSI cohort in rural South Africa. PLoS ONE 13(8): e0201445.
Download PDF: Rosenberg et al Circumcised Men Have Higher HIV Rates – S. Africa – August 2018