Condoms, yes; foreskins, no

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In recent years fewer and fewer baby boys have had their privates snipped as more people come to regard the practice of circumcision as unnecessary at best, barbaric at worst. But epidemiological evidence that male circumcision lowers HIV infection risk could turn that trend around.

A story in SALON.COM reports that HIV transmission rates vary widely between African countries due to all kinds of reasons, including different strains of the disease, different rates of condom use and, apparently, different traditions regarding male circumcision. HIV infection rates are considerably lower in west Africa, where it’s traditional to circumcise, than in eastern and southern Africa, where it’s not. The same pattern holds in Asia: Both Thailand and the Philippines have an active sex trade, but Thailand’s HIV rate is much higher than that of the Philippines. Circumcision is traditional in the Philippines; in Thailand it is not.

It may be that the fragile foreskin itself is particularly vulnerable to infection. In one study looking at HIV negative men married to HIV positive women, after two and a half years 40 of 137 uncircumcised men had become infected. Of 50 circumcised men, not one was positive.

If true, it’s ominous news for China and India, where the population is largely uncircumcised and HIV infection is just getting started.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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