Argh! What a crappy crappy crappy article! First, it says absolutely nothing about how or why this may be true; one would think people might want to know. Secondly, the study was published in the PLoS, as in PUBLIC Library of Science... as in the full text of the article is free on-line
. Finally, they can't even interpret statistics: that circumcision cuts the risk of HIV infection dramatically, by as much as 60 percent.
No; the study only found that the infection rate among the treatment (circumsized) group was 60% lower than that of the control (uncircumsized) group.
So, being curious, I checked the original article to see whether it offered any new evidence on the biological/medical reasons for the lower rates. It cited other studies which stated "direct factors may be keratinization of the glans when not protected by the foreskin, short drying after sexual contact, reducing the life expectancy of HIV on the penis after sexual contact with an HIV-positive partner, reduction of the total surface of the skin of the penis, and reduction of target cells, which are numerous on the foreskin."
That's still pretty cold comfort compared to the touted 60% miracle rate quoted by MSNBC's socially irresponsible reporting. Finally, the study itself "does not allow for identification of the mechanism(s) of the protective effect of MC on HIV acquisition."
As a result, I'm a bit dubious at the moment, especially considering the study was cut short (har har). I still think that social engineering which minimizes the prevalence of high-risk behaviors would be far more effective, though certainly harder to implement than some modern medical panaceae. "No, baby, I don't need a condom... I'm circumsized! And, furthermore, you can't get pregnant if you're standing up."
On a lighter note, I offer the following definition of keratin
, from Merriam-Webster's online: "any of various sulfur-containing fibrous proteins that form the chemical basis of horny epidermal tissues (as hair and nails)".