The practice of circumcision has been around for centuries. It has its roots well-embedded in religion, but with improvements in medicine and modern science, there are reasons for getting circumcised apart from religious considerations.
Circumcision mainly refers to the surgical removal of the foreskin, also known as the prepuce. The foreskin is the skin section or skin tissue that normally covers the head of the penis, also known as the glans. With the removal of the foreskin, the glans remains completely exposed, improving hygiene and helping to avert a myriad of sexually transmitted diseases. In this piece, we will explore how circumcision may be helpful in averting a myriad of infections, including HIV/AIDS.
The right time to get circumcised
There may be no right or wrong time for circumcision. However, certain religious groups prefer to carry it out on their newborn boys just a few days after birth. Among the Jewish, for example, circumcision is normally performed on male boys eight days after birth.
Most professionals recommend that it ought to be done as early as possible. This is because the procedure becomes riskier and more complicated as one grows older. However, it is still possible to conduct circumcision at any age during adulthood, including in instances when it is considered a medical remedy for a condition.
Circumcision and sexually transmitted diseases
Within the scientific world, there is a belief that there are very strong links between male circumcision and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. For decades, researchers have observed that many African tribes that practiced circumcision had lower HIV prevalence compared to the same demographics, but where circumcision was not practiced. The lower HIV/AIDs prevalence was also observed among Africa’s Islamic nations where circumcision was practiced shortly after birth.
Presently, there are numerous scientific studies being conducted in countries such as Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa. The aim of these studies is to attempt to show any links between circumcision and the chance of contracting HIV/AIDS as a sexually transmitted disease. Over the course of the studies, it was observed that men who have undergone circumcision are up to 60% less likely to contract HIV during sexual intercourse.
The mechanism through which HIV/AIDS enters the penis
It is estimated that of all the men infected with HIV/AIDS, nearly 70% of them got the virus through vaginal sex, with a smaller number getting it through anal intercourse. With this data, one can conclude that most men who have the virus got it via the penis, and probably through sexual intercourse.
As such, it is vital to understand how the virus infiltrates the body through the penis, so that you have a better comprehension of how circumcision may be helpful in helping to reduce the transmission of the virus.
In a circumcised penis, there is a keratinized, stratified epithelium responsible for covering the penile shaft as well as the outer surface of the foreskin. This usually acts as a protective barrier against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
During sexual intercourse with an uncircumcised penis, the foreskin is normally pulled back down the shaft of the penis. This usually leads to the exposure of the inner surface of the foreskin to the vaginal secretions which increases the surface area where the transmission of HIV/AIDS can take place.
How circumcision may help prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS
As already noted, circumcision involves the removal of the foreskin. The removal of the foreskin not only makes the glans less sensitive and tougher but also comes with a host of benefits. Regarding the prevention of HIV/AIDS, scientists believe that the removal of the foreskin also entails the removal of the tissues under the foreskin area which are normally susceptible to scratches or tears that may be experienced during acts of sexual intercourse.
In the absence of such soft tissues, therefore, there is a reduced likelihood of any tears or scratches being experienced, hence, very little exposure to the AIDS virus. Uncircumcised men, on the other hand, are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases because of the presence of the soft tissues under the foreskin. The increased chances of getting sexually transmitted diseases also make them more susceptible to contracting HIV/AIDS.
Circumcision and other sexually transmitted diseases
Circumcision is not only ideal for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, but offers a number of health benefits, including but not limited to reduced risks of certain types of inflammation, health problems associated with the presence of the foreskin such as penile cancer, and reduced risks of urinary tract infections in both infants and adults.
Although male circumcision has not been proven to mitigate the risk of HIV/AIDS in females, it may reduce the risk of female partners suffering from sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis. In some observational studies, it was also noted that circumcision can also lower the risks of penile cancer and the risks of cervical cancer in female sexual partners.
Health risks associated with circumcision
The overall health risks associated with circumcision are generally low. Minor bleeding and inflammation in the affected area are expected, but these side effects normally subside after a couple of hours and days, respectively. According to a study conducted by the CDC, it was observed that the rate of adverse health risks associated with medically-performed male circumcision was less than 0.4% in infants and less than 9% in children between the ages of 1 and 9 years. It is possible for more severe complications to occur, but such is usually very rare.
It should also be noted that the removal of the foreskin is vital in improving personal hygiene. With the presence of the foreskin, the skin beneath normally forms potent breeding grounds for all kinds of germs and bacteria and in instances of poor hygiene, these can quickly lead to serious infections. For those who are already circumcised, however, there is no foreskin to hide germs and it is also easier to ensure proper penile hygiene.