Still Ignoring the Key Fact

Reports like this always rely on a belief that the eureka moment can be whatever we want it to be.

A study in Uganda has come up with a surprising finding about sex and H.I.V. Washing the penis minutes after sex increased the risk of acquiring H.I.V. in uncircumcised men.

Men who washed within three minutes had a 2.3 percent risk of H.I.V. infection compared with 0.4 percent among those who delayed washing for 10 or more minutes. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases paid for the study.

Is it so hard to point out that this only matters for men who have unprotected sex with HIV+ female partners? What is the statistical context┬╣ for an intelligent comparison of 2.3% versus 0.4%?

Lacking what every news item over the last two years has lacked, the foreskin, by itself, is not the problem. Behavior matters. HIV is not going to miraculously jump onto his penis and infect him if he hasn’t picked it up already. Don’t have unprotected sex with HIV+ partners. It’s not complicated. A male will need neither surgery nor stopwatch to stay healthy if he follows that simple, time-tested strategy.

┬╣ I suppose we’re to assume the authors of the study controlled for the incidence of intact men engaging in unprotected sex with HIV+ female partners.

Because of a slip-up, the researchers did not ask details of how the cleansing was done or directly about using soap, said Dr. Ronald H. Gray, a co-author from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Some soaps used in Africa are more irritating than those used elsewhere.

Small detail, that. But I’m sure everything else can be trusted to adhere to rigorous standards and should be presumed correct.