Aidsmap is reporting this morning that HIV infection was higher in female partners of HIV+ men who were circumcised than in men who remained intact as observed over a two year period. The study was presented at the Fifteenth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections that opened in Boston, Massachusetts on Sunday.
Fascinating was the study’s author’s response that the result was disappointing and unexpected. Researcher bias clearly was not
an issue for considered problematic by the authors of this study despite their stated preconceived expectations. Commendable is that the data wasn’t massaged — at least not to the point of changing the results.
However, it occurred to me that whenever Western, particularly American researchers, don’t get their preferred result, they tend to resort to blaming the research subjects (usually Africans). Here the authors stated that the study subjects didn’t wait long enough to heal before resuming sexual activity (poor impulse control) or that they didn’t heal fast enough (an inferior biological response?).
Equally valid conclusions to be drawn are that the hypothesis was wrong or that the study design was flawed. Neither possibility was addressed.
Clearly, the devil’s in the details and the impact of circumcision in HIV transmission long term, even assuming the African circumcision studies were meritorious and could be repeated, is simply unknown.