Circumcision for baby boys was a common practice in the United States but, in the past several years, many parents and health insurance companies have decided against it claiming it was not be medically necessary. Now, a group of American pediatricians says the health benefits of male circumcision outweigh its risks.
In many African countries, adult men are getting circumcised to stop the spread of HIV. That's because research shows that male circumcision can protect both men and their female partners from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The World Health Organization concluded that universal male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa could prevent close to six million new cases of HIV infection and 3 million deaths over a 20 year period.
Dr. Aaron Tobian, a pathologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine, studied the health and economic impact of circumcision. "Three randomized trials which are the gold standard of our medical evidence, have shown that male circumcision reduces HIV, genital herpes and human papillomavirus that causes penile cancer," he said.
In Judaism, male circumcision is obligatory. For Muslims, it's recommended. In other cultures, it's a rite of passage into manhood. During the procedure the foreskin is cut from the penis. Many Americans say male circumcision is unnecessary. Some insurance plans, both private and public, no longer pay for the procedure.
The American Academy of Pediatricians recently issued a statement supporting the procedure. "The task force came to the conclusion that circumcision is cost effective. Although it costs money to circumcise a baby boy, it also saves health costs related to the reduction in sexually transmitted diseases," said one of the group's task force members, Dr. Douglas Diekema.
The pediatric group did not recommend routine male circumcision, but it did say the procedure should be covered by insurance. A study by Dr. Tobian validates the group's findings.
"What we found is that just the current rate of decrease of male circumcision from 79 percent to 55 percent over the last 20 years, will increase the United States' health care expenditures by about $2 billion," Tobian said.
Doctors say complications from male circumcision on infants are rare and usually minor. They also say baby boys have far fewer complications than men or boys do when they get circumcised later on.