AIDS is an epidemic in Africa, which has led to widespread speculation about people’s sexual practices there. But it turns out that it’s race that makes them so vulnerable to this disease!

A gene which evolved to protect people from Malaria increases their vulnerability to HIV by 40%. BBC News quotes researcher Robin Weiss as saying, “The big message here is that something that protected against malaria in the past is now leaving the host more susceptible to HIV.”

BBC quotes AIDS activist Ade Fakoya as saying, “There has always been this myth that people in sub-Saharan Africa were more likely to get HIV because of differences in their sexual behavior, or that they are more promiscuous. This shows that it’s not that simple…”
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We’ve explained why circumcision is the kindest cut: It helps to prevent AIDS. But what does it do to a man’s sex life? Since there are plans to circumcise adult males in Africa, this is a major concern.

New Scientist reports that scientists don’t yet have an answer to this touchy question.Canadian researcher Kimberley Payne compared the sensitivity of 20 uncircumcised with 20 circumcised men’s penises as they watched porno films, and found no difference between them.

However, when US researcher Robert Van Howe used a similar method to measure sensitivity at 19 points along the penises of 163 men, he found that the five most sensitive points were all in portions of the penis removed by circumcision.

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We don’t yet have a cure for AIDS, although we now have medicines that can keep people alive for much longer. But we do have a prevention, and it turns out to be something that has been around for thousands of years: circumcision.
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UPDATE – One thing that has long puzzled researchers is the small number of people who are infected with the HIV virus but don’t come down with AIDS. UPDATE: New research breakthroughs may mean that soon, people with AIDS may be able to stave off the effects of the disease by taking regular doses of a protein that prevents deterioration of the immune system.

In Africa, around one in 300 cases of people with HIV do not go on to get AIDS. Canadian studies show that, in the West at least, these cases may be around 1% to 2% of all infected people.
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