The Centers for Disease Control is considering recommending that newborn boys in the U.S. be circumcised to reduce their risk of contracting HIV.
The topic is a delicate one that has already generated controversy, even though a formal draft of the proposed recommendations, due out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the end of the year, has yet to be released. Experts are also considering whether the surgery should be offered to adult heterosexual men whose sexual practices put them at high risk of infection. But they acknowledge that a circumcision drive in the United States would be unlikely to have a drastic impact: the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk here, men who have sex with men.
Recently, studies showed that in African countries hit hard by AIDS, men who were circumcised reduced their infection risk by half. But the clinical trials in Africa focused on heterosexual men who are at risk of getting H.I.V. from infected female partners. For now, the focus of public health officials in this country appears to be on making recommendations for newborns, a prevention strategy that would only pay off many years from now. Critics say it subjects baby boys to medically unnecessary surgery without their consent.
Currently about 65% of U.S. boys are circumcised at birth. But blacks and Hispanics, who are disproportionately affected by HIV, are less likely to circumcise their newborns.