Circumcision Back in the News

Should the CDC recommend universal circumcision?


Circumcision is back in the news. This week, news sources leaked word that later this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) may release their recommendation for universal circumcision for all males. Public health officials are considering promoting routine circumcision because studies of men in Africa show that circumcised men in Africa have a significantly lower risk of contracting and spreading HIV. I'm going to ask you all to re-read this paragraph and focus on these words: In the news. May release. Public health officials. Considering promoting. Africa.

The CDC has not yet made their pronouncement but if and when they do, here's what it's based on: HIV and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in Africa. The health of the world at large. Public health. The CDC, World Health Organization and other organizations concerned with global health and human services are in the business of looking at what's best for the world, not necessarily your baby. The circumstances affecting HIV transmission in Africa aren't the same as those in America and many other developed nations. It's newsworthy because it's guaranteed to get people's attention. It's a sensitive, inflammatory subject.

Does this mean you should absolutely get your baby boy circumcised? Not so fast. First of all, they haven't formally made their announcement. Secondly, the reasons why circumcision reduces HIV in Africa is a very complicated situation that includes cultural issues, hygiene issues, sexual practices, myths and inability to get solid education and health care to millions of people. It's an entirely different story here in the United States.

I've been the nurse at many circumcisions - dozens, hundreds, I don't really know how many but for many years it was part of my job. It was probably the most difficult thing I had to assist in as an obstetric nurse. I am not a fan of circumcisions. Now that I've made my personal bias known, I want to add that Fit Pregnancy is less biased and honors the decisions and thoughtful choices our readers make in deciding what's best for their sons. Millions of parents make the choice to circumcise their sons and I respect the right of every parent to make the best choices they can for their children.

I am always surprised, however, at how many parents just assumed their son had to get circumcised. As if there was no choice involved. They don't weigh the pros and cons and there are many. Please be advised, circumcision is an entirely personal choice, not previously considered medically necessary and not supported by the American Pediatric Association (APA). Essentially, up to this point, it has been considered cosmetic surgery. I'm not sure whether the APA will change their policy in light of the CDC's impending announcement. (Read more about the APA's stance and the circumcision controversy.)

Here in the US, many of the impediments African men face in preventing the spread of HIV and other diseases aren't part of life for most American men. Overall, our boys have access to sexual education that teaches them the facts of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They can get condoms, medicines and medical care. They can be taught proper hygiene and have access to soap and water. They can be taught to make thoughtful choices when it comes to their sexual lives. Let's not jump the gun here and make a big decision until we've really thought about it and decided what's best for our sons. This is not an easy decision and making it thoughtfully is crucial. There's what's best for the world and there's what's best for our baby.

Read more about the circumcision decision.

Share your comments below: Should all infant boys in the U.S. be routinely circumcised?

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. 

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.