South Africa A South African AIDS expert Saturday advocated male circumcision as the best available "vaccine" against the virus in his country, where an estimated 6 million people are infected and more than 600 people die every day.
In Cape Town, Francois Venter told a congress of health activists in the Treatment Action Campaign that a recent survey in the Soweto township indicated that circumcised men were 65 percent less likely to contract AIDS than those who had not been circumcised.
"We dream of a vaccine which has this efficacy," said Venter, clinical director of the Reproductive Health and HIV Research at the University of Witwatersrand. "The results are phenomenal."
The association between circumcision and a reduced risk of HIV was noted as early as 1987, when Dr. William Cameron of the University of Manitoba in Canada reported findings from a study in Kenya. Some researchers in early studies have said they believe cells in the foreskin may be particularly susceptible to infection.
South Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. The disease is now one of the main causes of death among young adults and infants.