Updated 05 December 2014

Male circumcision: benefits outweigh risks

The federal guidelines from the U.S Centres for Disease Control suggest that the benefits of male medical circumcision outweigh the risks.


The benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks, according a long awaited draft of federal guidelines from U.S. health officials released on Tuesday, which indicate that scientific evidence supports recommending the procedure.

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that medically performed male circumcision could help decrease the risk of contracting HIV and several other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as other health problems.

The recommendation, which includes counselling parents of male newborns on the benefits and risks of the procedure, comes at a time when the rate of male circumcision has been decreasing in the United States.

From 1979 through 2010, the national rate of newborn circumcision declined 10 percent to 58 percent, according to the CDC.

Read: Circumcision less risky during infancy

The procedure, which has been subject of fierce debate, involves cutting the foreskin around the tip of the penis.

"These recommendations are based on an evaluation of available information on the health risks and benefits associated with high-quality, medically performed male circumcision and were developed to pertain to men and male newborns in the United States," the document said.

Several studies conducted in Africa indicated that circumcision could help reduce the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

All uncircumcised adolescent and adult males who engage in heterosexual sex should be informed about the significant, but partial, efficacy of male circumcision in reducing the risk of acquiring HIV and some STIs through heterosexual sex, as well as the potential harms of male circumcision, the draft guidelines said.

The overall risk of adverse events associated with male circumcision is low, with minor bleeding and inflammation cited as the most common complications, according to a CDC fact sheet.

The draft recommendations are subject to a 45-day public comment period and a formal external peer review. Comments provided will be considered before recommendations are finalized, CDC said.

The agency said it developed the draft guidance based on a systematic review of all evidence on the health risks and benefits of circumcision and consultation with experts in HIV prevention and related fields.

Read more:
Male circumcision lowers HIV risk for women
GP's to perform circumcisions
Sex as good when circumcised

Image: Aids awareness and prevention campaign concept art


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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