TWO STUDIES, SAME STORY: Neither women nor men who have sex with men receive benefit from male circumcision

First up is yet another study looking for HIV risk reduction from male circumcision in men who have sex with men. Once again, no such benefit was forthcoming. The relevant language from the abstract:

Among men who reported unprotected insertive anal sex with HIV-positive partners, being uncircumcised did not confer a statistically significant increase in HIV infection risk. Additional studies with more incident HIV infections or that include a larger proportion of uncircumcised men may provide a more definitive result.

AIDS. 2010 May 15;24(8):1135-43. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0b013e328337b8bd.

It is hard to imagine a more definitive result than no “statistically significant increase in HIV infection risk” for the fourth or fifth time. The results are consistent and unidirectional. Circumcision does nothing for men who have sex with men.

Second up is yet another study looking at HIV risk reduction in women paired with circumcised men. Circumcision failed in this context also. The relevant language from an Aidsmap summary:

The risk of contracting HIV was 40% lower for the partners of circumcised men than uncircumcised men, but this reduction in risk was not statistically significant.

Baeten JM et al. Male circumcision and risk of male-to-female HIV-1 transmission: a multinational prospective study in African HIV-1-serodiscordant couples. AIDS 24: 737-44, 2010.

It is notable that another study that found a 50% greater risk among women paired with HIV positive circumcised men used fairly neutral language to describe the lack of statistically significant reduced risk rather than the loaded language used above. That’s two studies now that show women receive no protection from male circumcision in terms of HIV risk reduction.

Two studies, same story. Male circumcision does not protect the two most HIV impacted categories of people, i.e. men who have sex with men and women.

About David Wilton

fronterizo, public defender, intactivist, gay
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3 Responses to TWO STUDIES, SAME STORY: Neither women nor men who have sex with men receive benefit from male circumcision

  1. David Wilton says:

    I mischaracterized the South Korean study. I meant to say that 20% of the respondents reported a decrease in satisfaction. Not that all participants reported this decrease, this latter characterization having been stated correctly in my original post, linked in the comment above.

  2. David Wilton says:

    The study you reference suffered from three biases. Self-selection bias was one wherein the men in question chose circumcision and therefore had no incentive to report deleterious effects of an irreversible procedure. The second bias was numbers. The numbers were too small, especially if any potential participants were excluded due to complications. The third bias is one of time. Dissatisfaction wouldn’t normally show up in a self-selected group until as much as 10 years after the procedure when the dulling of sensation is advanced enough for men to begin having the problems studied, such as erectile dysfunction.
    A better way of interpreting these men’s reactions to their circumcisions would be to look for an improvement in satisfaction, self-esteem, and performance. Apparently none achieved any improvement. As such, the experiment was an utter failure — or worse since the inevitably excluded cases where there were complications, if included, would have provided a net negative effect.
    Better studies to rely on for a measure of sexual satisfaction between the circumcised and the intact are this one and this one.
    The first describes a 20% reduction in satisfaction among South Korean men who are more or less socially forced to be circumcised often well into puberty where they have had the opportunity to experience the before and after. If dissatisfaction could be considered a complication for a non-medical procedure, a 20% reduction is a disastrous outcome.
    The second study looked at around 1000 men in Australia circumcised as adults. The authors state, “[N]early all men who were circumcised after infancy reported some sexual dysfunction, erectile problems or premature ejaculation, and one in five reported some complication as a result of the circumcision.”
    That’s pretty much all I would need to know if I were considering circumcision.
    Both studies are more recent than the one you reference.
    A third study was conducted by Bailey and his group of circumcision lobbyists in Uganda. In that study, the self-selection bias was so overwhelming as to render the results a propaganda piece rather than as a reliable reference for sexual satisfaction post-circumcision.

  3. Jon Curry says:

    Do you know anything about the study discussed at the link below that indicates no difference in satisfaction amongst the circumcised and uncircumcised?

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