HIV/Aids

Updated 18 October 2017

This is why all men should seriously consider getting circumcised

Unique cells found in the foreskin of the penis can actually attract the cells that produce HIV and STIs.

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Being a healthy individual takes effort. For the majority of us it will sadly not just happen naturally. For example, you need to be proactive about eating the right foods and need to make time to exercise. 

For men, another proactive step towards optimal health is through medical circumcision.

Many benefits

Health24 defines medical male circumcision as the surgical removal of the foreskin. Circumcision is performed for cultural, religious or medical reasons. 

An example of a culture which practises circumcision is the Xhosa people, where young men are circumcised as part of their initiation process into manhood. Jews and Muslims include routine neonatal (new-born) circumcision as part of their religion.

However, many men who do not fall into these categories also opt for circumcision. This is known as medical male circumcision as it is done purely for medical reasons. There are many benefits to getting circumcised, not only for you but your sexual partner as well.      

Some reasons you should consider getting circumcised:

  • Decreases the risk of HIV
  • Decreases the risk of STIs 
  • Lowers risk of prostate cancer
  • Maintaining hygiene is easier
  • No chance of tearing and bruising during sex, which may lead to infection
  • Reduces women's risk of cervical cancer

Brothers for Life explain that in the skin of the foreskin are unique cells, called Langerhans cells, which attract the cells that produce HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). This is why there is a higher risk of HIV and STIs when the foreskin is present.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), because the inner mucosal area of the foreskin is not keratinised and hosts a wealth of Langerhans' cells, it is very susceptible to HIV.

During heterosexual intercourse the foreskin is pulled back along the shaft of the penis, and the entire inner surface of the foreskin is exposed to vaginal secretions, providing a large area where HIV transmission can take place.

The Procedure

It advisable to get an HIV test before the actual procedure. The surgical procedure is done by a doctor or trained nurse and takes about 30 minutes.


                                                                               Diagram of a male medical circumcison.

A localised anaesthetic is used to numb the area and pain medication is given to manage any discomfort once the anaesthetic wears off after the procedure. 

Recovery time is generally six weeks, during which time you cannot have sex or masturbate. Proper wound management once the procedure is done is very important. The dressing is initially applied by the medical practitioner; they will also show you how to keep the wound clean and change the dressing.

Medical male circumcision is offered free of charge by government clinics and hospitals. You can find the list of all government and partner facilities that offer the service here

Image credits: Istock and Wikiimages

 

Ask the Expert

HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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