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August 18, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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Times article on circumcision in Washington draws ire

Posted by Letters editor

Key to avoiding HIV and AIDS is responsibility, not circumcision

Advocating routine infant circumcision (RIC) to prevent HIV and AIDS makes about as much sense as avoiding future pain and suffering by removing the breasts of all newborn girls, or the tonsils and appendices of newborns of both genders [“State may see greater push for circumcision,” NWMonday, Aug. 16].

Between 1940 and 1980, the rate of RIC rose from 60 percent to 85 percent. That suggests that the majority of American men who have succumbed to AIDS in the years since 1980 were circumcised. How does that fit in with the American Academy of Pediatrics’s and Centers for Disease Control’s positions today?

The key to eradicating HIV and AIDS is responsibility, sexual and otherwise. Condoms work. Convincing men in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere to use them consistently would be more effective, not to mention more humane, than subjecting baby boys to routine genital mutilation.

— Marie Esch-Radtke, MN, RN, Des Moines

Circumcison-HIV connection is a failed experiment

Our international physicians organization based here in Seattle is puzzled why The Times promoted circumcision in the article, “State may see greater push for circumcision.” There are numerous reasons to question the wisdom of such a plan, whether in Africa or the USA.

In epidemiology, only interventions with 95 percent-plus efficacy are considered worthy. Those with 60 percent or so protection are only somewhat above chance, and relied upon, invite disaster.

In the U.S. this “experiment” has already been run, for decades, and has failed miserably. The U.S. has the highest rate of HIV in the Western world, and the highest rate of circumcised men, above 70 percent. Why would we expect this experiment to suddenly succeed in Washington?

Do Cassandra Brooks and Matthew Golden expect Washington state parents to look down at their 1-day-old son and see an IV-street-drug abuser who will have unprotected sex with men, the most common sources of HIV in the U. S.?

Why should any circumcised young man observe caution when he has been assured he is now (mostly) immune from HIV?

Does anyone imagine that Washington infants and toddlers are a high-risk group of sexual adventurers?

— John V. Geisheker, J.D., LL.M., executive director, Doctors Opposing Circumcision

Researchers need to offer more evidence of lifestyle differences

Mathew Golden is quoted as saying, “The older idea that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support circumcision is no longer true.” He then proceeds to cite three studies conducted on heterosexual men in sub-Saharan Africa.

Did these “independent and randomized clinical trials” factor in the number of times per week these men ate dinner squatting on a dirt floor? How many times per week did they bathe? What about water quality? And possibly the most important factor: What was the social status of these uncut men? When circumcision is practiced as a cultural ritual, as it is in much of Africa, those who do not go through the process are often relegated to a lower social status.

Any study will show persons of lower status to be more prone to injury, disease and early death.

Perhaps we could get Golden working on something less far-fetched, like comparing our low incidence of circumcision to our high rate of MS?

— Tod A. Daniels, Seattle

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