Male Circumcision May Increase HIV Risk for Women

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Coinciding with World AIDS Day, the international physicians’ charity, Doctors Opposing Circumcision, (DOC), warns that recent worldwide news reports suggesting that circumcision is a magic bullet for HIV/AIDS are a dangerous distraction from less-expensive, proven solutions. The group points out that circumcision is likely to embolden males to abandon condoms, engage in risky behavior, and neglect the risk to females.

Coinciding with World AIDS Day, (Thursday, December 1, 2005), the international physicians’ charity, Doctors Opposing Circumcision, (DOC), warns that recent worldwide news reports suggesting that circumcision is a magic bullet for HIV / AIDS are a dangerous distraction from less-expensive, proven solutions. The group points out that circumcision is likely to embolden males to abandon condoms, engage in risky behavior, and neglect the risk to females.

Recent news articles suggesting that male circumcision might help in the HIV/AIDS fight are risky and misleading. Overlooked is a 1994 study from Johns Hopkins by Chao and colleagues that shows male circumcision increases the risk for women and this would negate the claimed decrease in risk for men. Also, the promotion of circumcision in HIV prevention might actually lead to a false sense of security in circumcised men, increase male to female transmission, and distract people from known and more effective methods of prevention – education and condoms.

“The United States has the highest AIDS rate and circumcision rate in developed countries. Clearly circumcision does nothing to stop the AIDS epidemic,” says John Geisheker, Executive Director of Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC). “Circumcision doesn’t protect against HIV – adopting behaviors inconsistent with transmission protects against HIV. Using condoms, for example, has been shown to be over 98% effective in curbing the spread of HIV. It is commendable that these scientists continue to study HIV transmission and were willing to come to a new conclusion; and the larger issue is the damage done by the earlier, flawed findings. This damage must be undone.

“Attempts to control HIV by imposing mass circumcision on populations will be unsuccessful,” says Geisheker. “Circumcision can change sexual behavior in a way that promotes the spread of HIV. Circumcised men have a greater tendency to engage in riskier, 'more highly elaborated' sexual practices. Such behavior often includes unsafe sexual practices – less frequent use of condoms, which deaden sensation even more for circumcised men, unprotected anal sex, or sex with multiple partners. This may contribute to the high rate of HIV infection in the United States, where circumcision rates are still of epidemic proportions.”

A minority of parents continues to authorize this hazardous amputation in the mistaken belief that it benefits their baby boy’s health when the opposite is true, these physicians note. (The circumcision rate in Western states including Washington is 31% and dropping according to the National Center for Health Statistics.)

“Circumcision has no proven, protective health benefit, but it does put the child at risk for deadly, drug-resistant, infections” says Geisheker. “The epidemic rise of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a more immediate threat to the health of newborn circumcised boys, who are 5 times more likely to become victims.”

The group asserts that medical evidence clearly indicates that genital integrity provides the highest state of physical, emotional, and sexual health and well-being, and is the best use of limited medical resources.

Doctors Opposing Circumcision website: http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org

The article: http://www.cirp.org/library/disease/HIV/chao/

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George Hill
Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC)
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