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Washington: State May See Push for Circumcision After Evidence Shows Health Benefits

August 19, 2010

Growing evidence that male circumcision can help reduce the transmission of HIV and other diseases has local and national agencies rethinking their recommendations regarding the procedure.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC are expected to update their circumcision guidelines later this year to reflect the latest research. Current guidelines, last revised in 2005, say there is not enough evidence to support routine circumcision.

"We're looking at all the best available science in updating our recommendations," said CDC spokesperson Jennifer Horvath.

Providers in Washington, which has one of the lowest circumcision rates in the country, expect the new guidelines to encourage the growth of circumcision in the state. Washington's rate for infant circumcision is 23 percent, compared to the national rate of 56 percent.

"The evidence is quite convincing that circumcision has significant health benefits in reducing heterosexual transmission of HIV, HPV, and herpes," said Matthew Golden, director of the Public Health-Seattle & King County HIV/STD Program. "The older idea that there isn't enough scientific evidence to support circumcision is no longer true."

In trials in sub-Saharan Africa, circumcision has been shown to reduce the spread of female-to-male HIV transmission by up to 60 percent.

Seattle and King County health officials are planning to publish any new guidelines in several languages and distribute them to providers, parents, and guardians. If Washington's Medicaid program begins to pay for the procedure, the state's current circumcision rate for Medicaid-eligible babies, 9 percent, likely will increase, Golden said.

Updates on the science of circumcision must be even-handed and sensitive to the non-technical considerations that surround the procedure, said Judith Wasserheit, professor of global health and medicine at the University of Washington.

"These are completely personal decisions and there are a lot of religious, social, and cultural considerations. No one is trying to force anyone to get circumcised," Wasserheit said.

Back to other news for August 2010

Adapted from:
Seattle Times
08.16.2010; Cassandra Brooks

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention


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