In an effort to reduce the spread of HIV, public health officials are considering the promotion of “universal circumcision” for all baby boys born in the United States.
The move comes after officials analyzed the results of several studies that show in African countries hit hard by HIV, men who were circumcised reduced their infection risk by half, the New York Times reported. However, those studies focused on heterosexual men who are at risk of getting HIV from infected female partners. The main issue in the U.S. is men who have sex with men.
In 2008, the CDC estimated that more than 56,000 people were newly infected with HIV in 2006 (the most recent year that data are available). Over half of those new infections occurred in gay and bisexual men.
Meanwhile, critics of the recommendation said it subjects newborn boys to “medically unnecessary” surgery without their consent.
But Dr. Peter Kilmarx, chief of epidemiology for the division of HIV/AIDS prevention at the CDC, told the Times that any step that could stop the spread of HIV must be given “serious consideration.”
“We have a significant HIV epidemic in this country, and we really need to look carefully at any potential intervention that could be another tool in the toolbox we use to address the epidemic,” Kilmarx told the newspaper. “What we’ve heard from our consultants is that there would be a benefit for infants from infant circumcision, and that the benefits outweigh the risks.”
An official draft of the proposed recommendations by the CDC is due out by the end of the year. In the meantime, the CDC is hosting its National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta this week.