Circumcision :: Male circumcision for HIV prevention – Maximizing public health benefit

A significant public health impact is likely to occur most rapidly if male circumcision services are first provided where the incidence of heterosexually acquired HIV infection is high.

It was therefore recommended that countries with high prevalence, generalized heterosexual HIV epidemics that currently have low rates of male circumcision consider urgently scaling up access to male circumcision services.

A more rapid public health benefit will be achieved if age groups at highest risk of acquiring HIV are prioritized, although providing male circumcision services to younger age groups will also have public health impact over the longer term. Modelling studies suggest that male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa could prevent 5.7 million new cases of HIV infection and 3 million deaths over 20 years.

Experts at the meeting agreed that the cost-effectiveness of male circumcision is acceptable for an HIV prevention measure and that, in view of the large potential public health benefit of expanding male circumcision services, countries should also consider providing the services free of charge or at the lowest possible cost to the client, as for other essential services.

In countries where the HIV epidemic is concentrated in specific population groups such as sex workers, injecting drug users or men who have sex with men, there would be limited public health impact from promoting male circumcision in the general population. However, there may be an individual benefit for men at high risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection.

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