i read on bbc health on friday that according to two recent research studies, circumcision could “cut the rate of HIV infection in heterosexual men” (pardon the pun). obviously being cut will never be more effective than using infection prevention devices such as condoms, but apparently in two trials involving 8000 men the instances of new HIV infections in heterosexual men reduced by roughly 50%.

national institutes of health director Dr Elias Zerhouni said: “Male circumcision performed safely in a medical environment complements other HIV prevention strategies and could lessen the burden of HIV/Aids, especially in countries in sub-Saharan Africa where, according to the 2006 estimates from UNAids, 2.8 million new infections occurred in a single year.”

the claim is related to cells in the foreskin which “may be potential targets for HIV infection” but also on the reduced sensitivity of the skin under the foreskin after circumcision, reducing the likelihood of bleeding and thus exposure to potential infection.

interestingly the trials were halted because it was deemed “unethical not to offer circumcision in the men who were acting as controls,” which throws into question an issue that this report has neglected to comment on. namely, the physcial and psychological effects of circumcision on men.

the foreskin has unique nerve receptors and stretch receptors totally roughly 1000. it is designed to protect the head which can maintain the intended thinness, texture and sensitivity. i don’t really see any rational reason to remove it.

but equally, there is evidence that the removal of the foresking can and does have lasting traumatic effects, as well as physical ones. there’s a good article from the lancet which notes that boys who are circumcised are more sensitive to pain than the uncircumcised boys. They say that “neonatal circumcision may induce long-lasting changes in infant pain behavior because of alterations in the infant’s central neural processing of painful stimuli.”

They also state that “the long-term consequences of surgery done without anaesthesia are likely to include post-traumatic stress as well as pain.”

plus the foreskin experiences sensations of its own. in a way cutting it off is giving the boy worse sex.

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