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I hear that circumcision can prevent HIV. How effective is it?

Circumcision (the surgical removal of all or part of the penis foreskin) can be a tool to lower the community rate of heterosexual HIV acquisition over time with limited effectiveness. It’s considered in places where there are heterosexual HIV epidemics, an HIV prevalence over 15%, and low circumcision prevalence.

Research studies in East and South Africa show that heterosexual people with circumcised penises were approximately 50% to 60% less likely to become infected with HIV than uncircumcised people.

Here in Canada, penile circumcision is not recommended as a method of preventing HIV. Canada does not fit the criteria mentioned and Canadians have access to much more effective HIV prevention tools. We’d encourage you to consider these:

  • condoms and lubrication
  • routine HIV testing
  • pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
  • testing and treatment for other sexually transmitted infections to reduce HIV risk
  • new injection drug equipment, that is never shared and disposed of properly
  • treatment for people living with HIV that can effectively eliminate transmission to an HIV negative sexual partner

Your health care provider or STI testing provider will be able to explain these HIV prevention options so that you can choose the ones that are a best fit for you.