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Sun 1 Apr 2007 01:45 PM

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Male circumcision secures UN approval

The practice gets backing for its ability to halve men’s risk of contracting HIV.

The United Nations has endorsed male circumcision in a bid to prevent HIV infections in heterosexual men and said it should be made more easily available in African countries.

Two U.N. agencies, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS, backed recent research showing that circumcision can more than halve men's vulnerability to contracting HIV through having sex with infected women.

In a joint statement, they stated that countries with high rates of heterosexual HIV should urgently improve access to male circumcision, giving priority to sexually active young men, while continuing to promote condom use and encourage regular screening.

"These recommendations represent a significant step forward in HIV prevention," said Kevin de Cock, the WHO's director for HIV/AIDS programs, adding that sizeable gains could be seen in regions where male circumcision is rarely practiced.

"Scaling up male circumcision in such countries will result in immediate benefit to individuals. However, it will be a number of years before we can expect to see an impact on the epidemic," he said.

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