Study: Declining circumcision rates could lead to increase in health care costs, disease

Published: Thursday, Aug. 23 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

The research states that if U.S. male circumcision rates declined to the approximate 10 percent rate in Europe, there would be an expected 12 percent increase in men infected with HIV, 29 percent more with HPV, a 19 percent increase in herpes simplex virus, and a 211 percent jump in the number of male urinary tract infections. In addition, the research indicates that female sex partners of non-circumcised males would also experience a higher incidence of HPV and bacterial vaginal infections.

The 20-year decline in the number of American males circumcised at birth, Tobian said, has already cost the nation more than $2 billion. He blames funding cuts in Medicaid programs across the country for the decline.

The most recent states to stop Medicaid funding for infant circumcision were Colorado and South Carolina, in 2011. They followed Louisiana, Idaho and Montana, which quit covering the $300 to $600 procedure in 2005; Maine, in 2004; Utah, Montana and Florida in 2003; Missouri, Arizona and North Carolina in 2002; and California, North Dakota, Oregon, Mississippi, Nevada and Washington before 1999.

Tobian said the states are on an "ill-fated path." Problems are compounded, he said, by the fact that the AAP does not yet recognize medical evidence in support of circumcision, a change he hopes the new research persuades.

It will be difficult, however, to change minds outside of the U.S., as several European countries are considering banning the practice altogether. Just this week, a rabbi in Germany was criminally charged for performing circumcisions.

"It is a debate that will continue forever … as long as there is a free democratic society," Levy said, adding that the Jewish tradition has been the same for 3,824 years, when Jews believe Abraham entered the covenant of circumcision with God.

For parents faced with the decision outside of religion, Bingham said she hopes they educate themselves before having a baby.

"I think you wouldn't cut off your finger unless you had to," she said.

In addition to educating parents, Bingham said parents should counsel their sons on proper cleaning and avoiding the potential for unwanted infection, specifically living a chaste life.

"I don't believe that choosing to or not choosing to will have a harmful or significant impact on boys," Smurthwaite said. "There are things to consider with each choice, but I think it is important to consider the boy, not just what our opinions may be, but a good decision based on the information we gather."

Email: wleonard@desnews.com Twitter: wendyleonards

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