Letter to the New York Times RE Aids Prevention and Circumcision

We sent a letter to the New York Times on January 31, 2012 in response to their article today entitled, "AIDS Prevention Inspires Ways to Make Circumcisions Easier" by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. The article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/health/aids-prevention-inspires-ways-to-simplify-circumcision.html.


Here is the text of the letter:


            Donald G. McNeil, Jr. inappropriately analogizes an amputated foreskin to a fingernail, opining that “the day of the assembly-line circumcision is drawing closer.”

            Assembly lines may be appropriate for manufacturing cars, but not for amputating body parts.  Unlike fingernails, the male foreskin is a highly specialized, complex structure of erogenous tissue whose removal results in substantial, lifelong losses in sexual sensitivity.  The three African studies McNeil’s mentions are riddled with methodological flaws and outright misrepresentations.  For example, the asserted “60% reduction” in HIV transmission refers to a relative rather than an absolute risk reduction -- statistical trickery to hide the fact that eighty circumcisions are necessary to prevent one case of HIV.

The “goal to circumcise 20 million African men by the year 2015” smacks of colonialism and racism, with Westerners claiming to know what is best for the black man, and disregarding basic principles of autonomy and informed consent.    


J. Steven Svoboda, J.D.

Executive Director

Attorneys for the Rights of the Child

Berkeley, CA



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