There is an abundance of preventative measures to take to ward off HIV. Namely, wearing a condom, being regularly tested, and of course, abstinence. Still, there are some things that can increase your risk of contracting the STI. Being uncircumcised may be one of them, according to a study published in the journal mBio.

How HIV Plans Its Stakeout in Uncircumcised Men

Research has established that foreskin can give HIV the opportunity to enter the body. The virus supposedly hides within the folds between the foreskin and the penis itself. Researchers found that anaerobic bacteria living underneath the foreskin may possibly aid HIV in its evil quest. In fact, sometimes a large number of bacteria resided underneath the foreskin. This increased the HIV infection risk from 54% to 63%.

Cindy Liu, the lead author of the study, along with some of her colleagues took swabs from the penises of uncircumcised, Ugandan men. Some men were already HIV+, others were not. Having these bacteria lure cytokines, which can are associates of immune cells, allows for HIV to hijack these cells as a way to enter the body. While it is not yet clear what the next move is, this knowledge is substantial. Research shows that bacteria levels in HIV infection through the foreskin of uncircumcised penises are ten times higher than the normal amount.

The Overall Tapering of Transmission

Though it is vital to note that in Sub-Saharan Africa there are some projects that offer free circumcisions. Furthermore, these programs have made great gains in tapering the HIV rate. Still, there are cultures where circumcision is not part of their way of life, and these people may be resistant to it. Even so, there are cultures where circumcision is in decline as an outdated practice.

Of course, this is not a condemnation on all who are uncircumcised. Many men who are uncircumcised may never face a scenario like this. However, they should keep themselves exceptionally clean, especially underneath the foreskin. They can also use condoms, protection, even abstinence, and should consider a long-term monogamous relationship.

However, if anyone—circumcised or not—does not keep these put into practice any of these measures, they may be opening the way to HIV. Remember that anyone is susceptible to HIV; no one is immune, not even those who have already contracted the virus. This should underscore the importance of being regularly tested and being shrewd when it comes to sex with multiple partners