In a Way, Circumcision Is Beside the Point

It's unclear whether the procedure offers gay men any protection against HIV. But we know what does.


It isn't clear whether circumcision protects gay men from infection with the HIV/AIDS virus as it does heterosexual men, a study released this week says. Previous research has shown that circumcision lowers rates of AIDS infection by some 50 to 60 percent among heterosexuals. So there's nothing from this research that men—gay or straight—can or should act upon at this point. The science simply isn't reliable enough at this point to say, for example, whether uncircumcised men would benefit from running off and getting the procedure.

But here's what we do know about gay men and HIV in the United States:

  • 53 percent of all new HIV/AIDS cases involve gay men, according to the CDC.
    • 71 percent of all new HIV/AIDS cases in male adults and adolescents involve gay men.
      • New cases of HIV are increasing faster among gay and bisexual men than other demographic groups, particularly among gay black men.
        • Practicing safe sex offers protection.
        • A friend of mine, who is gay, summed the situation up this way: "If you're gay, and you're not having safe sex, you're unbelievably stupid." And, if you weren't paying attention during health class, and don't know what safe sex involves, here's a reminder.

          Black women are another demographic group still getting hit hard by HIV infections. My colleague January Payne recently explored this topic.