CDC's HIV Prevention Conference To Focus On Routine Circumcision
Centers for Disease Control's National HIV Prevention Conference convenes this week in Atlanta. One of the topics to be discussed will be routine circumcision of newborn males in the United States.
The topic of circumcision has strong advocates on both sides of the debate.
Recent studies have shown that men in African countries with high AIDS levels could reduce their risk of infection by half with circumcision. The studies aren’t perfect as they focused on heterosexual men who are at risk of getting HIV from infected female partners. No one knows if the same holds true for men who have sex with men.
The CDC HIV/AIDS Division's chief epidemiologist, Dr Peter Kilmarx is reported to comment that “every potential step that could prevent the spread of HIV should be seriously considered.” He did acknowledge that the situation in Africa was different than in the US so the effect of male circumcision is likely to be less dramatic. Differences between the U.S. and Africa include a lower rate of HIV in the U.S. than in Africa, difference in transmission (male to male more common in the U.S.), and different health care infrastructures.
The conference has not even begun. No new public health policy regarding circumcision has been written. The critics are already objecting. Critics say it subjects baby boys to medically unnecessary surgery without their consent. They also argue that the facts show that circumcision only reduces the risk of HIV infection and does not eliminate it. It is recommended that even circumcised men wear condoms.
Approximately 80% of adult American men are already circumcised. The rate of circumcision of newborns has fallen. Only 65% of newborn males were circumcised in 1999. Whites are more likely to be circumcised than blacks and Hispanics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics' official policy states: Circumcision is “not essential to the child's current well-being.” The NYT reports that the group is revising its guidelines and will likely do away with the neutral tone in favor of a more encouraging policy stating that circumcision has health benefits beyond HIV prevention, like reducing urinary tract infections for baby boys.
New York Times
American Academy of Pediatrics