Male Circumcision Opponents Seek To Outlaw Practice Despite Possible Benefits in Lowering Risk of HIV Transmission
Opponents of male circumcision have begun lobbying the United Nations to classify the practice as a human rights violation despite the recent release of a study showing that the practice might reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission, the Religion News Service/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (Pomerance, Religion News Service/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 8/7). The study found that circumcision can reduce by about 65% the risk of men contracting HIV through sexual intercourse with women. The randomized, controlled clinical trial enrolled more than 3,000 HIV-negative, uncircumcised men ages 18 to 24 living in a South African township. Half of them were randomly assigned to be circumcised, and the other half served as a control group, remaining uncircumcised. After 21 months, 51 of the uncircumcised men had contracted HIV, compared with 18 of the circumcised men, and the procedure prevented six to seven out of 10 potential HIV infections (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/27). In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1999 issued a statement saying scientific research shows circumcision could have medical benefits, including lowering the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. UNFPA Media Adviser Patricia Leidl said that although studies linking circumcision to HIV prevention are inconclusive, the "trends are certainly pointing in that direction." However, critics say preventing human rights abuses "trumps the medical data," which they call misleading, according to Religion News Service/Pioneer Press. The San Diego-based group MGMbill.org is seeking to amend a 1996 law that banned female genital cutting -- sometimes known as female circumcision or female genital mutilation -- in the U.S. to outlaw circumcision for males under age 18. The group twice has submitted the bill to Congress and the California State Legislature, but so far it has failed to gain a sponsor (Religion News Service/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 8/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.