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Aug 23, 2019

Posted Monday, September 28, 2009 10:28 AM
Research proving male circumcision reduces risk of HIV infection declared one of the 'Top Canadian Achievements in Health Research'

By this time tomorrow, thousands more people around the world will have become infected with HIV. The virus remains determined and aggressive, much like the scientists trying to stop it in its tracks. University of Manitoba professor Stephen Moses was principal investigator in research that revealed a significant hole in the deadly virus’ armor. His team showed that male circumcision significantly reduces the risk of acquiring HIV for men who have heterosexual intercourse.

Today, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) declared these findings one of the Top Canadian Achievements in Health Research.

Estimates show that male circumcision in hard-hit sub-Saharan Africa could avert more than 7.7 million HIV infections and 3 million AIDS deaths during the next two decades. Findings from this research have prompted the Government of Kenya to establish a task force and adopt national policy guidelines for voluntary male circumcision.

“Dr. Moses’ project is one of only eight across the country to receive this prestigious honour, which speaks volumes about its impact in terms of reducing the spread of HIV and saving lives,” says Dr. Digvir Jayas, Vice-President (Research) at the University of Manitoba. “Not only has Dr. Moses improved our understanding of this disease, but these findings have already been put into action, and have encouraged many countries in eastern and southern Africa to increase male circumcision services in their battle against HIV and AIDS.”

Moses, along with colleagues in the United States and Kenya, conducted a randomized clinical trial involving men in Kenya, and showed that circumcised men were over 50 per cent less likely than uncircumcised men to acquire HIV during sex with women. The clinical trial began in 2001 and involved more than 2,700 men before coming to a close nearly five years later. The trial ended early when its Data Safety and Monitoring Board deemed that the results were already so compelling it was unethical to continue without offering the control group the protection of circumcision. In 2007, Time magazine identified male circumcision for HIV prevention as one of the year’s top medical breakthroughs.

A physician and public health specialist, Moses says these findings will have the greatest impact in regions where HIV infection rates are high and rates of male circumcision are low, such as several countries in eastern and southern Africa. In these settings, it could take as few as 19 circumcisions to prevent one person from contracting HIV.

“Doing more male circumcisions over a period of years in those countries, so that the majority of adult men become circumcised, could result in a reduction in HIV prevalence in the general population by as much as 67 per cent,” says Moses. “Not only would this save lives and reduce suffering, which is paramount, but it would also help economically by reducing the costs associated with HIV/AIDS care. In South Africa, for example, it has been estimated that male circumcision could cost as little as $181 to avert one HIV infection.”

Moses says he is appreciative that the findings have garnered recognition as a Top Canadian Achievement in Health Research. As one of three principal investigators – and the only Canadian – he attributes the success of the Kenya trial to having a strong team of collaborators.

“It was a complex undertaking that required expertise in a variety of different disciplines,” Moses says.

The Top Canadian Achievements in Health Research acknowledges the discoveries and innovations that have had the biggest impact on the health of people in this country and around the world. A peer-review panel of Canadian and international experts selected the final list.

The CIHR is Canada’s major federal funding agency for health research. Its objective is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system.

The CMAJ showcases innovative research and ideas aimed at improving health for people in Canada and globally. It publishes original clinical research, analyses and reviews, news, practice updates and editorials.
For more information, contact:
Katie Chalmers-Brooks
Research Communications Officer
Office of the Vice-President (Research)
Phone: (204) 474-7184