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?