In March, the New England Journal of Medicine released the findings of a random clinical trial study show that circumcision not only reduces the incidence of HIV infection in men, but also reduces transmission of herpes simplex virus Type 2 and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
After analyzing the results of the study, done on 3000 Ugandan men, the researchers estimated that circumcised men had a 25 percent reduced risk of HSV-2 infection. For the types of HPV. that cause genital cancer, it was found that the circumcised men had a 35 percent reduced risk of infection. Both studies were controlled for various health and behavioral factors.
The authors of this study suggest the difference might be because of the retraction of an uncircumcised man's foreskin during intercourse exposes the penis to infection, and that the moist area under the foreskin may then provide a protected environment in which the viruses can flourish.
“The findings suggest that there are important lifetime health benefits to the procedure,” Dr Ronald H. Gray, a professor of reproductive epidemiology at Johns Hopkins and the senior author of the study, said. “I think it’s important that pediatricians consider the lifelong benefits that might accrue from circumcision when they are advising parents on whether the procedure should be performed in baby boys.”
In 2007, prompted by the results of other similar studies, a consortium of experts convened by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS (the United Nations' HIV program) announced that circumcision should indeed "be part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package." A package which, of course, includes safer sex practices.
Also, a team of researchers from the CDC, Johns Hopkins, and the Baltimore health department examined the records of more than 1,000 African American males — all heterosexual — who tested positive for HIV at Maryland clinics. Uncircumcised men were 50 percent more likely to be infected.
An editorial published with the first study reported noted that U.S. circumcision rates were declining, and that they were lowest among black and Hispanic patients, groups with disproportionately high rates of HIV., herpes infection and cervical cancer. Sixteen states also have eliminated Medicaid coverage for routine circumcision, which may exacerbate the problem among the poor.
Many American doctors in recent years had no longer been recommending routine infant circumcision, backed by anti-circumcision organizations, who claimed that it was merely a cosmetic procedure that caused unnecessary pain to infant boys, as circumcisions were done without anesthesia. In light of recent findings, however, many of these same doctors are reconsidering their position.
According to Marvin L. Wang, co-director of newborn nurseries at Massachusetts General Hospital,says that since the 1990s, it's become routine in U.S. hospitals to anesthetize babies before the procedure and complications are now rare, about 3 in 1000 and are minor and treatable.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, circumcised boys have a lower risk of urinary-tract infections and penile cancer, and a slightly lower risk of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Uncircumcised men are also subject to balanoposthitis (inflammation of the foreskin and glans), phimosis (a foreskin that's too tight to retract over the glans), and paraphimosis (a foreskin stuck in the retracted position).After reading about all of this, I was glad yet again that I am circumcised and I'm confident I made the right decision for my son. Even if the benefits of circumcision to prevent the problems mentioned above were only minuscule, it would have been worth it in my book