We found three associations, three things that are more frequent in HIV positive men than in HIV negative men. That was past history of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly diseases that cause ulcers, frequent sex with prostitutes and being uncircumcised. Men who were uncircumcised had about a four- to five-fold increase in likelihood of being HIV positive.
Even without ulcers, uncircumcised men were still 8 times more likely to get HIV. Having a foreskin alone seemed to radically increase their chance of getting the virus.
The virus gets in where the skin isn’t protected by keratin. This is a cross-section of human skin, the dermis and the epidermal layer of cells above and on the surface layer a protein called keratin forms a thick, protective coating. If this keratin layer is intact it is almost impossible for viruses to get into the body and there are very few places on the body that are not covered in keratin.
Keratin is a thick layer which is impervious to micro-organisms and this is one of the reasons why, despite what people think, skin does not get very commonly infected, unlike mucosa such as the nasal tract, the lungs, genito-urinary tract which gets much more common infection, infected. In fact most infections are upper respiratory or genitals.
The inside of the foreskin has got much less keratin on it and so it’s likely to be the site of viral entry into the body and in addition it’s got all these amazing cells called Langerhan cells which sort of gobble up and internalise the virus.
Their job is to defend the body against infection. They have arms that reach out to the surface of the skin and trap viruses and deliver them to the immune system so they can be destroyed, but the danger from HIV is different to other viruses. HIV hijacks the Langerhan cells and when it gets into the body the virus wreaks havoc and starts to destroy the immune system.
Oh it’s a Trojan horse basically. The Langerhan cells is in fact a line, allowing a virus to enter the body and carry it to the very system, namely the lymph glands, where those viruses can start proliferating.
Langerhan cells reach up to the inner mucosal surface of the foreskin. With little keratin covering the cells here it is much easier for them to reach out to the HIV virus and there are more of them.
We’ve found a larger number of Langerhan cells in the foreskin, therefore the chance of the foreskin being infected is so much greater, therefore it fits the bill.
In an age before mass communications and government health warnings, health practices were necessarily encoded into religious doctrine. The logic behind a taboo on eating the flesh of swine is the same logic behind removing the foreskin. It wasn’t for no reason that ancient religions mandated circumcision.
Further to this, how much money does the Big Pharma AIDS money-go-round make? Let’s float this as a hypothetical – If there were billions of dollars in AIDS for Big Pharma, and if circumcision offered a cheap non-patentable alternative with no market for Big Pharma big money drugs, would Big Pharma throw up its hands and thank God a cure had been found at last with nary a tear shed at the billions they were going to miss out on? Or might they be cynical enough to sling a day’s income (ie. a few million) at whomever they could find to tell us that circumcision is a really bad idea? I wonder…