For the first time a new study has shown that circumcision can help protect gay men, who take the penetrative role in anal sex, from being infected by HIV.

Previously, a number of studies in Africa had shown that circumcision could play a role in reducing the chances of heterosexual men being infected by the virus.

Now an Australian study, undertaken by David Templeton, a researcher from the University of New South Wales, has shown that the same is true with gay men.

Templeton announced the results at the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine 2008 conference in Perth, but he made it clear that the possible benefits of circumcision do not apply to ‘passive’ sex partners.

“…we looked at the men who predominantly practised the insertive role and we found that among the one third of men who predominantly practised the insertive role there was a significant [85%] reduction in HIV risk among those men who were circumcised,” said Templeton.

He nevertheless stressed that the results do not make a significant overall difference to the rate of infection among gay men as a group because men in the receptive role are in any case at much more risk of becoming infected regardless of the circumcision status of their partners.

“…the majority of HIV infections in Australia occur via receptive anal sex to the receptive partner and so a man’s own circumcision status will have no possible bearing on that,” he said.

He added that, “Circumcision is not going to have anywhere near the effect that consistent condom use is going to have and so the clear message to all gay men is that they should not be thinking that because they are circumcised that they can just throw away condom use.”

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