Minimal impact of circumcision on HIV acquisition in men who have sex with men
Background: Men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by HIV. The proven efficacy of circumcision in reducing the risk of HIV acquisition among African heterosexual males has raised the question of whether this protective effect may extend to MSM populations. We examined the potential impact of circumcision on an HIV epidemic within a population of MSM. Methods: A mathematical model was developed to simulate HIV transmission in an MSM population. The model incorporated both circumcision and seropositioning, and was used to predict the reduction in HIV prevalence and incidence as a result of the two interventions. Estimates for the time required to achieve these gains were also calculated. Results: We derive simple formulae for the decrease in HIV prevalence with increased circumcision. Our model predicts that if an initially uncircumcised MSM population in a developed country with a baseline HIV prevalence of 10% underwent universal circumcision, HIV incidence would only be reduced to 95% of pre-intervention levels and HIV prevalence to 9.6% after 20 years. In the longer term, our model predicts that prevalence would only decrease from 10% to 6%, but this would take several generations to achieve. The effectiveness of circumcision increases marginally with higher degrees of seropositioning. Conclusions: The results of these calculations suggest that circumcision as a public health intervention will not produce a substantial decrease in HIV prevalence or incidence among MSM in the near future, and only modest reductions are achievable in the long-term.