Yet More Evidence to Support Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision

We shared the news earlier this week that the  American Academy of Pediatrics issued a recommendation for newborn male circumcision. In their decision, they pointed towards evidence from global clinical trials, including those conducted in Africa, which have proven that Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) can reduce the spread of HIV between partners.

The editors of Bloomberg recently wrote an editorial in support of male circumcision in which they cited this report.

In an analysis published Monday, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine conclude that every infant circumcision that is not performed results in $313 in extra health-care expenses even after accounting for the procedure’s cost of about $291…

Male circumcision is an ancient practice that appeared independently in a number of disparate cultures. Only in recent decades have its medical benefits been known. It has been established for years that circumcising baby boys reduces their incidence of urinary tract infections when they are infants. Evidence was strong that the practice protected against penile cancer.

More recently, three randomized controlled trials in Africa demonstrated that circumcision reduces a man’s chances of becoming infected with HIV, herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes penile cancer in men. In one study, female partners of circumcised men had a lower risk of HPV, which causes cervical cancer in women, and two other sexually transmitted diseases.

Activists opposed to circumcision argue that it constitutes mutilation. They had a point when the procedure served only ritualistic purposes. The evidence is overwhelming now, however, that the surgery has medical benefits, making it not so different from removal of a worrisome mole.

Opponents also claim circumcision reduces sexual function and satisfaction. Until the trials in Africa, in which mature boys and men were circumcised, no one had tested that proposition scientifically. In the Kenyan trial, 64 percent of the circumcised men reported their penis was “much more sensitive” and 54 percent said they had a “much” easier time achieving orgasm. In the Ugandan trial, 57 percent of female partners of circumcised men reported no change in sexual satisfaction and 40 percent reported an improvement.

It is heartening to see such a well articulated argument for VMMC in a mainstream publication like this.  The more people who understand the value of VMMC to public health goals the better.