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A new study found that adult circumcisions do not lead to sexual difficulties among men who were already sexually active. The study appeared in the November 2008 issue ofThe Journal of Sexual Medicine, the official journal of the International Society for Sexual Medicine. Irwin Goldstein, MD, is the editor-in-chief of the journal and the director of the sexual medicine program at Alvarado Hospital.

The World Health Organization recommends male circumcision as an important element in HIV prevention programs, and the procedure is promoted in high-risk heterosexual populations. While the benefits of circumcision are well-documented (they also include reduced rates of urinary tract infection, penile cancer, and cervical cancer and chlamydia in female partners), there remains a concern that adult circumcision may impair sexual function.

“More than 99 percent of the men studied reported that they were satisfied with their circumcision, and the majority of men reported both greater penile sensitivity, and easier use of condoms,” said lead author John N. Krieger, MD, of the University of Washington, who added that the study group consisted of 2,684 men in Kisumu, Kenya, between 2002 and 2005; both groups underwent six detailed evaluations between one month and 24 months after circumcision.

The results also showed no significant difference in the frequency of erectile dysfunction, inability to ejaculate, pain during intercourse or lack of pleasure during intercourse. Circumcised men also had progressively higher rates of sexual satisfaction over time.

“These findings are reassuring in view of current efforts to promote male circumcision to prevent HIV infections in some countries, particularly in eastern and southern Africa,” say the authors. They also note that continued evaluation and counseling in HIV and sexually transmitted disease risk reduction remain critical.

“This topic has been highly controversial,” added Dr. Goldstein. “I am pleased to be able to publish irrefutable evidence that circumcision does not have negative side effects regarding sexual health; rather it is quite the opposite.”