Frustration beats exhaustion every time

More news from the “circumcision cures all” front:

Female sexual partners of circumcised men are less likely to contract Chlamydia trachomatis infections than are those of uncircumcised [sic] men, a study shows.

The most common bacterial cause of sexually transmitted infections, C. trachomatis can cause severe reproductive complications in women and is associated with increased risk of cervical cancer.

The relationship between male circumcision and C. trachomatis infection in the female partner has not been explored, Dr. Xavier Castellsague, at Institut Catala d’Oncologia in Barcelona, and colleagues point out in the American Journal of Epidemiology for November.

That didn’t stop Reuters from reporting it with the headline “Circumcised men less apt to transmit Chlamydia,” did it. Only in the seventh (of eight) paragraph do we learn this trivial piece of information:

Only among younger women and women with a history of consistent condom use was there no association between circumcision and C. trachomatis detection.

I’m willing to grant the younger women aspect as relatively obvious, since younger people in general encounter less disease. But history of consistent condom use? Do you think that might have something to do with protecting women (and men) from venereal infections? Is it so hard to point a nod in the direction of personal responsibility?

I’ve made the point, but I’ll do so again. I’m not opposed to adult circumcision, but responsibility must be included in the decision to engage in sexual activity, whether the choice be trust in the sexual partner, whether to use a condom, or whether the male wants to be (or should be) circumcised. But those are sexual choices, appropriate for adults. Infants obviously don’t need to make those choices, nor should they have those choices made for them. The decision to undergo circumcision should remain with the adult male who will face the consequences.

Choices matter in life. If a man chooses to remain intact “despite” the apparent scientific evidence, and then engages in behavior resulting in venereal infection (which he has to catch from somewhere, mind you – women are responsible how in this discussion?), so be it. If he then engages in activity resulting in his female partner (what does the study say about male partners – not an irrelevant question, I think), contracting his venereal disease, that’s a result of their choices. Personal responsibility matters. Circumcision may be a reasonable choice for the adult male, and that’s certainly the role of science in this discussion, but reporting on that shouldn’t be skewed.

Of course, what I’ve pointed out isn’t the only bias going on here, right? Remember the title of the Reuters article (“fans” of Reuters know where this will end up): “Circumcised men less apt to transmit Chlamydia.” What does the study’s abstract say about the study? Consider:

Male circumcision has been shown to reduce the risk of acquiring and transmitting a number of venereal infections. However, little is known about the association between male circumcision and the risk of Chlamydia trachomatis infection in the female partner. The authors pooled data on 305 adult couples enrolled as controls in one of five case-control studies of invasive cervical cancer conducted in Thailand, the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, and Spain between 1985 and 1997. Women provided blood samples for C. trachomatis and Chlamydia pneumoniae antibody detection; a type-specific microfluorescence assay was used. Multivariate odds ratios were computed for the association between male circumcision status and chlamydial seropositivity in women. Compared with women with uncircumcised [sic] partners, those with circumcised partners had a 5.6-fold reduced risk of testing seropositive for C. trachomatis (82% reduction; odds ratio = 0.18, 95% confidence interval: 0.05, 0.58). The inverse association was also observed after restricting the analysis to monogamous women and their only male partners (odds ratio = 0.21, 95% confidence interval: 0.06, 0.72). In contrast, seropositivity to C. pneumoniae, a non-sexually-transmitted infection, was not significantly related to circumcision status of the male partner. These findings suggest that male circumcision could reduce the risk of C. trachomatis infection in female sexual partners.

And what do you know, the title of the study is “Chlamydia trachomatis Infection in Female Partners of Circumcised and Uncircumcised [sic] Adult Men.” I guess the facts just get in the way of sticking your arm up and screaming “Ooooh, ooooh, look what information I have! I haven’t read it all but you won’t believe it!”

2 thoughts on “Frustration beats exhaustion every time”

  1. I’m actually going to refute the disconnect between younger women and C. trachomatis detection, which supports your theory of personal responsibility. Studies have shown that there has been an increase in sexually transmitted disease among younger people. Though some young people are not engaging in intercourse (incorrectly assuming that lack of intercourse lowers risk?), they are engaging in risky sexual behavior that is causing an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia.
    Though I understand why the study’s results showed no association between circumcision and C. trachomatis detection in younger women and women with a history of consistent condom use, I do think that younger women could be taken out of that equation depending on the sexual profiles/history of the study’s subjects. Based on that information, I’d predict that the women with a history of consistent condom use (personal responsibility!) would be the only demographic to show no association between circumcision and C. trachomatis detection.

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