There's a way that few people know about that can save millions of lives at next to no cost. That is voluntary medical male circumcision. The bottom line is that it reduces transmission of HIV by 60% in men, the greatest benefits accruing in developing nations that are hardest hit by the epidemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO), UNAIDS and PEPFAR are leading the world in scaling-up circumcision efforts as part of the fight against AIDS.
The WHO estimates that voluntary medical male circumcision could prevent up to 5.7 million new infections and 3 million deaths by 2017, and PEPFAR reports that a programme to increase circumcision to 80% coverage in Eastern and Southern Africa over the next 5 years could prevent 20% - an incredible 4 million new infections in the region.
The effect of male-to-female HIV transmission is less clear and more research is needed. However, studies do show that female partners of circumcised men have a reduced risk of acquiring the virus, and there is consensus that women will benefit from the scale-up of circumcision efforts in the long term because of the lower risk of exposure to HIV as well as sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer.
Ideally, men who live in countries with high rates of HIV should be circumcised. It'll save millions of lives and avoid bucket loads of misery.
It is obvious people should wear condoms whatever happens. However, many people do not and that is where being circumcised can help enormously. This is why the World Health Organisation believes millions of people will avoid contracting HIV by being circumcised.
It goes without saying that people should wear condoms - that remains the number one way of combating HIV. But for future generations, voluntary male circumcision could help us stand a greater chance of dramatically reducing the number of people with HIV.