July 20, 2009 -- Having a male sex partner who has been circumcised doesn't hurt a woman's sexual satisfaction -- and may improve it, according to a landmark study in Uganda.
Almost 40 percent of women in the study said that their sexual satisfaction improved when their male partner had been circumcised. Only a handful of women reported less satisfaction, while the rest reported no change, according to Dr. Godfrey Kigozi, of the Rakai Health Sciences Program.
Kigozi reported the findings at the fifth annual International AIDS Society conference on pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention of HIV.
The circumcision report emerged on the heels of a series of studies that have shown that male circumcisions can help the lower the spread of HIV/Aids in countries like Uganda that have been ravaged by the disease. Circumcision reduces the risk of acquiring HIV for heterosexual men by more than 50 percent, according the to the surveys.
As a follow-up to the Rakai AIDS study, Kigozi and colleagues enrolled 455 women whose partners had the procedure during the trial and asked them to report their sexual satisfaction before and after.
Only 13 participants said their sexual satisfaction was reduced. Among the nearly 40 percent who said things were better, the top reason -- cited by 51 of 177 women -- was better hygiene.
Interestingly, 45 of the 177 women reported better sex because their partner took longer to achieve orgasm -- the same reason two unhappy women gave for their dissatisfaction.
Among other reasons for better sex:
Forty-four women said their partner wanted sex more often, a reason also cited by one woman who was unhappy with her state of sexual satisfaction.
Twenty-six said their partners had less or no difficulty maintaining an erection and 18 said they had less or no difficulty getting an erection in the first place.
Twenty women said they achieved orgasm more often.
The findings were good news to public health officials because they show that one possible barrier to the widespread use of circumcision to fight HIV -- objections from women -- doesn't exist, according to Dr. Naomi Block of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who chaired a session at which the study was presented.
Women Don't Fear Circumcision's Impact on Sex Life
On the other hand, Block said, the result was not entirely unexpected -- more than a dozen earlier reports had indicated that women don't expect much to change after a partner's circumcision.
"Women were very positive about it," she said.
But those reports, she said, were based on interviews with women whose partners had not been circumcised, while the Rakai study involved women with experience both before and after the procedure.
Kigozi said the finding parallels earlier research on men's opinions of sexual satisfaction after circumcision, with 97 percent saying it was either unchanged or better.
The study was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and Fogarty International.