NYC Mayor Bloomberg Raises Questions About Plans To Promote Male Circumcision as HIV Prevention Method
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday raised questions about plans recently announced by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to launch a campaign promoting male circumcision after the World Health Organization and UNAIDS last month recommended the procedure as a way to help reduce the spread of HIV, the New York Times reports. Following the health department's announcement, Bloomberg officials said the administration has not decided if it will pursue the campaign (Cardwell, New York Times, 4/6). UNAIDS and WHO released the recommendations in response to growing evidence that routine male circumcision could reduce a man's risk of contracting HIV through heterosexual sex. According to final data from two NIH-funded studies conducted in Uganda and Kenya published in the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Lancet, routine male circumcision could reduce a man's risk of HIV infection through heterosexual sex by 65%. New York's health department has begun asking community organizations and gay advocacy groups to discuss male circumcision with members and has requested that the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs hospitals and clinics in the city, provide circumcisions at no cost for men who lack health insurance. City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said he believes health insurers might agree to cover preventive circumcisions because they already cover them as treatments for infections and urinary blockage. According to Frieden, even 1,000 circumcisions performed in certain populations could curb the spread of HIV in the city (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/5). Bloomberg at a news conference said that he has not discussed the campaign with Frieden or HHC Chair Alan Aviles. Bloomberg also expressed support for seeking new methods to combat the spread of HIV but said he is not convinced that government should be involved in promoting or providing male circumcisions. According to Bloomberg, the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the city is very high, despite education campaigns. "We have to do something about it, and we should be looking at everything," Bloomberg said, adding that when "reputable health organizations talk about ways to do it, you certainly are going to give it some serious consideration." He also said that "whether it's something that the government should be involved in, or just giving advice and making sure that people get educated, education in the end is the real tool to stop the spread of AIDS in our society" (New York Times, 4/6).
Health Department Distributes Five Million Condoms in One Month
The New York City health department on Wednesday announced that from mid-February to mid-March it distributed five million no-cost condoms, or about two condoms per every man living in the city, as part of its efforts to curb the spread of HIV, the New York Times reports (Perez-Pena, New York Times, 4/5). The health department in January approved a $1.57 million contract to deliver Ansell Healthcare's Lifestyle condoms and packets of lubricants to organizations and venues in the city to help curb the spread of HIV. The health department will pay Ansell four cents per condom, putting the cost of the program at about $720,000 annually, according to health officials. City health officials in February unveiled the official condom, which features a subway theme with different colors for various train lines. Officials plan to track the progress of the program through an annual community health survey, which polls 10,000 city residents by telephone. New York City currently distributes about 1.5 million condoms monthly, or about 18 million annually, at no cost to organizations, health clinics, advocacy groups, bars, restaurants, nail salons, nightclubs and prisons. Organizations or venues can request an unlimited supply of condoms at no cost through an online ordering system set up by the city health department (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/20). According to the Times, the health department last year worked with 877 businesses, health clinics, advocacy groups and other organizations to distribute 18 million condoms. Since the department unveiled the subway-themed condom, an additional 500 groups have joined the effort, according to Adam Karpati, assistant city health commissioner in charge of HIV/AIDS programs (New York Times, 4/5). Some of the groups asked by the health department to participate distributed about one million of the five million condoms, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. Frieden in a statement called the program a "sensation," adding, "Hundreds of community organizations are signing up to give out free condoms, many for the first time." According to the AP/Newsday, the condom distribution campaign also aims to prevent unplanned pregnancies and curb the spread of other sexually transmitted infections (Kugler, AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/4).