Circumcision ‘no answer to HIV’
The International AIDS Society conference last week was abuzz with the success of circumcision in reducing new HIV infections in men along with future gel-lubricants to protect receptive sex partners.
But health experts warned misplaced faith in these findings could instead increase infection rates if condom use slowed, particularly among gay men in countries with highly developed HIV responses like Australia.
Rather than the 60 percent prevention rate found in African studies, ACON CEO Stevie Clayton said the best Australia could hope for would be a handful of cases after a generation of widespread male circumcision at birth.
“By anyone’s account that’s not going to be a cost-effective program,” Clayton said.
“We have such a specific epidemic. Eighty-five percent of new infections are among gay men, and most of them are the receptive partner.”
Further, Clayton said circumcision on adult men had more side effects, negating any benefits and potentially increasing the individual risk.
Microbicide gels intended to kill HIV on vaginal or anal application were also a hot topic at the conference, despite every study to date being shut down early due to low success.
Despite this, the relatively recent area of research has attracted the big spenders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as it could shift the power from the insertive partner to the receptive.
With all but one microbicide study looking exclusively at vaginal use, Clayton said the wait would be even longer for gay men.
“When they do finally get one that works vaginally, there are bigger hurdles to get over before it will be useful rectally,” she said.