Someone once told me that, if you want a paper to be heard by a large, fractious audience, make sure it’s about circumcision. Peter Breibart considers it over at The Freethinker, and he’s not a happy bunny.
You may have heard that there are medical advantages for circumcision – and it is true that the American Academy of Pediatrics notes a 1 percent drop in urinary tract infections among circumcised boys. Women, however, are 30 times more likely to get UTIs than men, yet no-one in their right mind would suggest the cutting of the labia and clitoral hood in order to improve hygiene and reduce the risk of infection.
Shamefully, the World Health Organisation recommends circumcisions in areas badly affected by HIV, instead of recommending educating the public regarding the use of contraceptives. The idiocy is profound: mutilate a man’s penis instead of leaving it intact and educating him. Cut him instead of teaching him. I have no doubt that the widespread influence of the Catholic Church in AIDS-hit countries has affected the WHO’s decisions about the dodgy fixes they endorse regarding the HIV. We well know the Vatican teaches that condoms don’t prevent HIV (for the Holy See, AIDS might be bad, but condoms are worse.)
I’m not sure about the reliability of the medical facts that Breibart cites here, and there was a short piece on the practice in New Scientist a little while ago suggesting that it halves the risk of HIV infection, possibly because of the changes it forces to the bacterial fauna on the penis – though this isn’t a vindication of circumcision so much as a vindication of targeting antibiotics to alter the fauna. Any thoughts?
UPDATE: Of course, the JME did a whole symposium on this topic a little while ago; Søren’s introductory editorial can be found here.