"One of the major reasons for the Philippines' low HIV prevalence rate is the fact that it practices almost universal male circumcision. We know that male circumcision protects against HIV partially, about a 60 percent reduction for men and eventually that means Filipino women are less likely to encounter men who are HIV positive so they have lower rates of HIV," Dr. Catherine Hankins, chief scientific adviser to UNAIDS, she told abs-cbnNEWS.com.
"The Philippines, in adopting male circumcision despite the fact that it is primarily a Roman Catholic country has meant a better control of the epidemic."
Data from the Department of Health National AIDS Registry shows that from January 1984 to December 2008, there were 3,589 HIV Ab seropositive cases reported in the Philippines. Of that number, 2,787 (78%) were asymptomatic and 802 (22%) were AIDS cases. Seventy percent (2,500) were males.
Hankins said male circumcision substantially reduces female-to-male transmission of HIV and is recommended by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization for HIV prevention in countries with high rates of heterosexual HIV transmission and low male circumcision prevalence.
She said various studies have shown the benefits of male circumcision including lower rates of urinary tract infections in male infants who are circumcised; lower risk of penile cancer and lower prevalence of some sexually transmitted infections such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
She said circumcised men do not suffer health problems associated with the foreskin such as phimosis (an inability to retract the foreskin) or paraphimosis (swelling of the retracted foreskin causing inability to return it to its normal position). She said circumcised men also find it easier to maintain penile hygiene.
Two studies also suggest that female partners of circumcised men have a lower risk of cancer of the cervix, which is caused by persistent infection with high-risk oncogenic (cancer-inducing) types of human papillomavirus.
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