In what is will undoubtedly cause quite a stir, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) will change its policy on infant circumcision of boys, acknowledging that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks.
In the 60s, about 80% of boys in the US were circumcised. Now, according to the CDC, it’s about 56 percent. Worldwide, about 30 percent of males are circumcised.
Some of the decline can be attributed to grass-roots campaigns that tagged circumcision as being a cruel human-rights violation and equated it with female genital mutilation (the two, by the way, are not even close and don’t belong in the same sentence). In increase in immigrants from non-circumcising countries and the fact that Medicaid and an increasing number of insurers have stopped paying for the procedure have also contributed to the drop in percentages.
Perhaps bowing to political pressure, the American Academy of Pediatrics had taken a completely neutral position for more than 10 years. But that’s changing. The Academy’s old position was that while existing scientific evidence demonstrated potential medical benefits of circumcision, there wasn’t enough evidence to make it a routine procedure. The new policy, which is due out later this month, won’t go quite as far as actually recommending circumcision, but it will cite a number of studies (done in Africa) showing that circumcised men are less likely to contract HIV, herpes, urinary tract infections, HPV (human papilloma virus), and other sexually transmitted diseases. A recent study by Johns Hopkins suggests that if circumcision rates continue to drop in the US, we’ll see an increase in the number of cases of the diseases mentioned above. Plus, it will cost individuals and taxpayers billions to treat them.