July 5, 2005

Circumcision Reduces HIV Risk, But Conservatives Now Face Quandary

According to the most extensive and rigorous studies of the connection between circumcision and HIV transmission (the results are as-yet unpublished, but they've been widely discussed in the HIV prevention community, apparently), circumcision reduces a man's likelihood of infection from intercourse with an HIV-positive woman by as much as 70%.

The research project is one of three taking place in Africa (this one was in South Africa; the other NIH studies are in Kenya and Zaire.), and it was ended early, presumably because the results were so definitive.

Can you imagine what Americans would do if a group of foreigners blew into town and tried to round up 3,000 men to be randomly circumcised? But then, South Africa IS a country where people actually believe you can prevent HIV by having sex with an infant, so go figure.]

While these medical results--if they're published and validated--may help some parents decide whether to have their baby boys circumcised, conservatives face a dilemma about what to do: on the one hand, the story's in the Wall Street Journal; but on the other, the study was conducted by the French.

Study Says Circumcision Reduces AIDS Risk by 70% [wsj, alternate link at azcentral.com]


My ped actually told us about a few preliminary studies done regarding HIV and other STDs with the same results.. it was a small part of the reason we decided to circumsize our boy.

Why are these studies almost always done in Africa where there is a major HIV/AIDS epidemic (that has been caused by so much MORE than being uncircumcised, btw)?? I want to see a study done on the link between circ's and HIV on a continent that does not suffer from extreme poverty, questionable water quality (read clean water to bathe with), and a raging HIV/AIDS epidemic due to lack of education and preventative resources, etc. I know this sounds ridiculous, but if you know how to keep from getting HIV/AIDS, have access to condoms, AND have the resources to easily keep yourself clean, then I don't think being circumcised or not is going to make much difference on what sort of diseases you contract. I highly doubt that my son (who isn't circ'd) has a 70% greater chance of being infected with HIV, JUST because he has a foreskin. There are SO MANY MORE IMPORTANT factors that up your risk of HIV/AIDS (and that are more likely) than just circumcision. Maybe I'm playing the denial game, but that's like saying you have light skin so you are 70% more likely to get a sunburn if you were left in the middle of the sahara with no clothes, no shelter and no sunscreen for a week. Sorry about the rant, it just seems so ridiculous to focus on circumcision in this respect, when there are so many other things that can be done to help the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

no kidding. My biggest fear, and it's echoed by experts in the article, is that circumcision somehow becomes such a magic AIDS cure in Africa, that other prevention practices get ignored.

Yeah, get the kid circumcised then the U.S. never has to feel guilty about cutting funds for family planning informnation and condoms in developing countries. 'Cos condoms don't prevent STDs & HIV, circumcision does...

[circumcision and abstinence, actually. It's like baby Atlas balancing the world's political problems on the tip of his penis. No pressure, eh? -ed.]

Right, because it's not like the majority of gay men with AIDS and the junkies with AIDS in the US aren't circed.

OK. For a study on a continent with a lack of 'extreme' poverty and 'questionable' drinking water etc.
Look no further than the somewhat similar study done in Russia and Kazakhstan, which yeilded almost indentical results. Stay tuned for link, but the russians are notorious for not making research findings readily available, however my cousin worked with health care workers in Kazakhstan who were studying the rising numbers of HIV positive patients in the health care system there.
PS - the study in Africa was incredibly rigourous and the results are solid. You can't deny that circumcision can mean the difference. So, while lack of clean water and an abundance of povery prevails, circumcision can have a dramatic effect upon this epidemic. Whatever HELPS is what I say.

You know what works even better then hacking off a chunk of your new son's penis?
Give him a condom, and show him how to use it.

It's not rocket-science people.
/pocket rocket?

A more enlightened addendum to what Chris said:

And it's not like the majority of non-IV-drug-using, heterosexual and bisexual men with AIDS in the US aren't circumcised, either.

We aren't talking about 'our' sons, we're talking about a continent where the fear of condoms (yes, fear) is prevalent. Lack of education and availability make this is a case of doing whatever helps.

Studies show that female circumcision reduces the likelihood of HIV infection, but because the female body is considered sacrosanct in Western cultures, female circumcision is considered unethical. But male genitalia are up for grabs. To be fair, both men and women should be offered the option of being circumcised in studies like this. The onus of sacrificing specialized erogenous tissue should not be shouldered entirely by men.

Involuntary circumcision is genital terrorism. Performing it on the people of another race is racist. In this case, the subjects were given the option: it wasn't forced on them. But doing it to an infant, who cannot give his consent, long before he has the time to develop
sexually, is ethically and morally unsustainable. Advocates of involuntary circumcision are morally no better than pedophiles.

And there is a huge leap from studies like this to implementing a policy of involuntarily cirucmcising others. It does not follow that it is ethical. Circumcision will remove an average of 15 square inches of irreplaceable specialized tissue, and three feet of veins and arteries. It will decrease the size of the penis significantly, and stunt its growth in adulthood if performed in infancy. There are reports from restoring men who gained some of the lost length back after restoring for a year; recovering an inch or more of shaft length tthat was buried in the abdomen due to insufficient skin is not uncommon.

The procedure changes the mechanics and perception of sexual intercourse. The behavior of the subjects and their partners should be studied afterwards, including: their perception of sexual intercourse; their ability to engage in foreplay; the quality of their relationships before and afterwards.

Hey, Foreskin man. While you're welcome at daddytypes,
- hyperbolic arguments,
- equating this or that to terrorism,
- criticizing controversial conclusions that no one's making (and that experts already rightly warn against in the article being linked to),
- and citing studies in a declarative way without providing links or identifying references
is not.

Unless, of course, it's funny. And this isn't. So back to the drawing board.

ha ha ha, that post made me actually laugh, you (foreskinman) are welcome to my vegan yogic-flying group anytime you desire, you could potentially levitate the room with your misconstrued convictions.

PS - I am still looking for a link to the central asian study about circ and aids. So, stay tuned.....I do have work sometimes ya know.

As a woman, would I be willing to give up 15 square inches of skin from my external genitalia? (Do I even have 15 square inches?) Uh, no thanks. Why not keep all of your private bits and choose your partners wisely and practice safer sex instead?

Whenever I hear another reason/excuse/justification for circumcision, I always ask myself: "How much genital tissue would I cut off my daughter for the same reason(s)?" The answer is always NONE. I believe in gender equality so my son gets to keep his whole penis.


Whenever I hear another comparison/likening/associative contrast for female vs. male circumcision, I always ask myself: "Why do I bother responding, its just contentious no matter which way you slice it!?"

A reference for statistical correlations between reduced incidence of HIV infection and female circumcision is KIRSTEN BELL, Genital Cutting and Western Discourses on Sexuality, MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY QUARTERLY, Volume 19, Number 2: Pages 125-148, June 2005. See Footnote 9; I include an excerpt for reference:

"...as female circumcision takes place in societies where male circumcision is simultaneously performed and the so-called AIDS belt corresponds largely with regions where circumcision (either male or female) is not practiced, a correlation also exists between female circumcision and lower HIV transmission rates."

The text of the article is available at this URL:

No one has done any studies on the percentage of HIV carriers who are circumcized in the U.S.A.
I would expect it would be lower than average.
In fact, Black Americans who are at more risk of catching HIV are much less likely to be circumcized than White American Males.
I think this a bigger contributing factor, than all the Garbage about the Down Low phenomena in the Black Community.
Get your facts straight.

By the way Rocketman, it is a lot easier and a lot less painful to put on a snug condom when you are circumcized.

Greg from daddytypes: you're mistaken to accuse Foreskin Man of hyperbole or exaggeration. Circumcision necessarily interferes with the growth of the penis. And the controversy surrounding the subject, unlike the absence of controversy that attend to such procedures as amputating a limb to save a life, means that parents and physicians cannot escape moral judgment for choosing and performing it. The numbers of equally-informed impartial rational persons who are against the practice is significant enough, that involuntary circumcision is at best a weakly justified violation of moral rules. And only strongly justified violations, which are uncontroversial, are free from moral judgment.

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