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Steep Drop Seen in Circumcisions in U.S.

By RONI CARYN RABIN Published: August 16, 2010 Despite a worldwide campaign for circumcision to slow the spread of AIDS the rate of circumcision among American baby boys appears to be declining. A little-noted presentation by a federal health researcher last month at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna suggested that the rate had fallen precipitously — to fewer than half of all boys born in conventional hospitals from 2006 to 2009, from about two-thirds through the 1980s and ’90s. Last week, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned that the figures in the presentation were not definitive. But they are already stirring a sharp debate on the Internet. The numbers were presented to the AIDS conference by a C.D.C. researcher, Charbel E. El Bcheraoui. The presentation was not covered by any mainstream news outlets, but a report by the news service Elsevier Global Medical News, along with a photograph of a slide from the presentation, quickly made the rounds of the blogosphere. The slide portrays a precipitous drop in circumcision, to just 32.5 percent in 2009 from 56 percent in 2006. The numbers are based on calculations by SDI Health, a company in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., that analyzes health care data; they do not include procedures outside hospitals (like most Jewish ritual circumcisions) or not reimbursed by insurance. Andrew Kress, the chief executive of SDI Health, cautioned that the data had not yet been published and was still being analyzed, but he confirmed that the trend had been toward fewer circumcisions each year. He added that measuring the circumcision rate was not the purpose of the study, which was designed to measure the rate of complications from the procedure. Opponents of circumcision hailed the trend as a victory of common sense over what they call culturally accepted genital mutilation. For federal health officials, who have been debating whether to recommend circumcision to stem the spread of AIDS, the news suggests an uphill battle that could be more difficult than expected. C.D.C. officials last week declined requests for interviews about the study, but a spokeswoman, Elizabeth-Ann Chandler, answered questions by e-mail. She reiterated that the agency used the SDI figures to calculate the rate of complications, not of circumcisions. “C.D.C. was not involved in the collection of the data that was cited, nor has C.D.C. undertaken any review of this particular data for the purpose of calculating rates,” she wrote. “As such, we cannot comment on the accuracy of this particular estimate of infant male circumcision.” But she did not dispute the waning popularity of circumcision. “What we can tell you is that male infant circumcision rates have declined somewhat in this decade,” she wrote. The study found a very low rate of complications associated with newborn

since the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk.C.circumcisions. would be less likely to infect a woman. executive director of Intact America a nonprofit organization based in Tarrytown.I.K. it is not clear that a circumcised man with H. prevention. she said.V. men who have sex with men. The academy is likely to adopt a more encouraging stance than its current neutral position and to state that the procedure has health benefits beyond H.I. rates here.-positive female partner. Greater awareness about female circumcision may have influenced parents as well. Officials from the pediatrics academy said its new policy would be issued by early 2011.I. Yet even advocates of circumcision acknowledge that an aggressive circumcision drive in the United States would be unlikely to have a drastic impact on H. to cut little boys. And while studies in Africa found that circumcision reduced the risk of a man’s becoming infected by an H.’ That would be foolish.V. Dr. The World Health Organization in 2007 endorsed male circumcision as “an important intervention to reduce the risk of heterosexually acquired H.” said Georganne Chapin. Other possible reasons include a growing Hispanic population that has traditionally been disinclined to circumcision.” Several state Medicaid programs stopped covering circumcision after the academy issued its current policy in 1999. when you are horrified by the idea of cutting little girls?” Both the C.I.I. “How can you think it’s O. Brady said. as well the anti-circumcision movement and a broader trend among parents to spurn medical interventions like vaccination. which is being reviewed by several other committees. and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been reviewing the scientific evidence on circumcision with an eye to issuing new policy recommendations.D. and Dr.V. Michael Brady. said Dr. one of the highest rates in the developed world. asking. ‘You have to circumcise your child. . but so far neither body has done so.” “No one is going to tell a parent. Organizations opposed to circumcision said parents may be responding to the message their groups have been spreading through their Web sites and a video distributed to childbirth educators. most were considered mild and no babies died.V. Ohio.” Dr. who served on the task force. N. it’s harmful and it’s painful. Some 80 percent of American men are circumcised.Y. Brady said. “The key thing physicians should be doing is providing information on both risks and benefits and allow the parent to make the best decision. “Word has gotten out that it’s not necessary. chairman of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.V. although the federal agency was to have issued its new recommendations by the end of last year. Brady said that may be one reason fewer parents opt for the procedure. a task force that studied the topic has completed its report.