This press release has gotten some mileage recently, which surprises me because it’s from February. It’s obviously “relevant” now, as you’ll see, but I wonder how people can throw something like this around while missing points so obvious.
A statistical review of the past medical files of more than 300 couples in Uganda, in which the female partner was HIV negative and the male was HIV positive, provides solid documentation of the protective effects of male circumcision in reducing the risk of infection among women. Male circumcision also reduced rates of trichomonas and bacterial vaginosis in female partners. The study is believed to be the first to demonstrate the benefits to female partners of male circumcision.
Thomas C. Quinn, M.D., professor of infectious diseases at Hopkins and a senior investigator at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, will present an overview of this trial, plus two others presently under way, as part of a plenary discussion at CROI on circumcision and HIV. But, he says, “We will have to wait for the ongoing two trials before drawing conclusive recommendations about circumcision for all men, and whether or not the benefits apply to transmission from females to males only, or to females from men as well. However, early indications are dramatic and, if proven, one case of HIV disease could be prevented through circumcising anywhere from 15 to 60 males.”
All of this is fascinating science, and could inform those who desire to sleep with HIV-infected partners without a condom about an option to possibly reduce their risk. But it has no broad policy implications when looking at the specific details, at least not pertaining to children. However, there are two conclusions pertaining to children worth extrapolating from this to counter the illogical leap necessary to get there.
I’m not interested in seeing anyone become HIV-positive. Yet, despite the possible protective effect in this statistical review, the conclusion is that we should circumcise men to protect women. That should be a discussion between partners, not parents. The parents of a boy should teach their son sexual responsibility. The parents of a girl should do the same. When those two meet, they’re prepared. Instead, I’m supposed to believe that it’s a boy’s responsibility to sacrifice body parts to protect his partner. That might be a noble choice, but not when it’s forced upon him. Protecting girls should not come at the price of disregarding boys.
That, of course, leads to the 15 to 60 males who must be circumcised to prevent one additional HIV infection. What kind of collectivist hogwash have we fallen into that we’ll subjugate the healthy body parts of boys/men to protect the group? Bodily integrity is not open to statistical review, particularly when the disease under discussion requires specific actions to become infected.
Just to prove that anyone can quote a press release to support his own viewpoint, enjoy:
Dr. Dean Edell, syndicated radio host of “The Dr. Dean Edell Show” and anchor of “Medical Minutes”, a series of ten weekly radio medical reports, said that using routine male circumcision to prevent AIDS is flawed logic. “AIDS is caused by a virus, not by the foreskin,” said Edell. “The foreskin is one of several possible entrance points for the AIDS virus to infect the body, but that does not mean that you should cut the entrance off. It means that you should protect the entrance, either by using condoms or by practicing safe sex. If some men want to undergo circumcision because they feel it will make them safer, then they should be free to do so. But we need to draw the line when it comes to circumcision of children, which is done without consent of the patient. The common sense thing to do here is to make circumcision an option for adults only.”
Opponents of circumcision too often question the science behind these studies because they must be false if they don’t conform to our viewpoint. I don’t fall into that category, as I think I’ve shown. But we wouldn’t have to hammer away with common sense logic against extending conclusions beyond their scope if those behind promoting the science were more responsible with the information.