“Male circumcision is a highly significant, lifetime intervention. It is the gift that keeps on giving. It makes sense to put extraordinary resources into it.”
Who would you guess recently offered this paean to foreskin fleecing? A rabbi? An imam? Nope. Try U.S. AIDS coordinator Eric Goosby at a health convention last month for top officials from 80 countries.
This smacks down the logic of a German regional court that has banned religious circumcision, calling the practice a “serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body.” As the AFP reported at the time, Goosby was reflecting a scientific consensus that has been cemented over the last seven years:Studies show that circumcision can dramatically reduce HIV infections. One study in South Africa last year found new infections fell by 76 percent after a circumcision programme was launched in a township.The medical success story here is even more remarkable than the AFP lets on. Those original trials, as the New York Times reported upon their publication, were so effective that theywere stopped early by the National Institutes of Health, which was paying for them, because it was apparent that circumcision reduced a man’s risk of contracting AIDS from heterosexual sex by about half. It would have been unethical to continue without offering circumcision to all 8,000 men in the trials, federal health officials said.
In 2006, trials in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa found foreskin removal more than halved men’s risk of HIV infection. Longer-term analysis has found the benefit to be even greater than thought, with a risk reduction of around 60 percent.