07/06/08

Creaming off the circumcisions?

When we were trying to think of how to spend two million dollars of US taxpayers money on preventing the rampant growth of a non-existent HIV epidemic in a tiny country with no risk (East Timor), one of my colleagues suggested finding every sexually active man in the capital Dili and dipping their private parts in latex.

Now, researchers in neighbouring Australia are suggesting that slathering penises in oestrogen cream might do just as well. The study, published in the (wonderful, open access) Public Library of Science, showed that creaming the underside of the foreskin gold-plates (well, keratinises) the sensitive Langerhans cells, that can act as a conduit for HIV into the body. They suggest this might have the same effect as lopping off the foreskin, but would be cheaper and less likely to enrage the Whole Organ lobby.
They only tried it on two men, it’s true, and they haven’t actually shown that it has any effect on the acquisition of HIV. But they did measure a “highly significant increase in the number of desquamated, keratinised epithelian cells”.

Any volunteers, lads?

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This post was published on 07/06/08 in Science.

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3 comments

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  1. Comment by Tew Short, 07/06/08, 08:53:

    Have you been to Dilli in East Timor lately? There are lots of busy brothels staffed by women from around Asia serving UN staff and Timorese men …

    But isn’t one of these Australian researchers Roger Short? The Lemon Juice Doctor? He and Mechai Viravaidya of Thailand have already had one spectacular failure – lemon juice as a vaginal microbicide.

  2. Comment by Lee Rudolph, 07/06/08, 10:53:

    “But they did measure a ‘highly significant increase in the number of desquamated, keratinised epithelian cells’.
    Any volunteers, lads?”

    Yeah, boys, don’t be squamish.

  3. Comment by Hugh7, 11/06/08, 02:10:

    Short and co aren’t suggesting oestrogen instead of circumcision, but as well as. They claim (with no evidence) that both together could provide a complete barrier to HIV.

    “We have a suspicion that the reason may be that most circumcision techniques don’t actually remove all the foreskin, all the inner foreskin. So there’s still some there for the virus to enter.

    “And we could use this oestrogen cream, even in uncircumcised men, and we would hope that that might increase the protection from 60 per cent to up to nearer 100 per cent.” (But the South African and Kenyan RCTs were by the forceps-guided method that removes less skin than the sleeve method used in Uganda – all three produced the same “protection”.)

    It was also Short who made the first claim, based on foreskins cut off the bodies of old men, that Langerhans cells in the foreskin reach out and clasp HIV to their bosoms – or something equally colourful.

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