January 2, 2008

Discover Magazine
90 Fifth Avenue, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10011


We were surprised to see that the list of the “100 Top Science Stories of 2007” in your January issue (by Apoorva Mandavilli) included as number 15 “Male Circumcision: A New Defense Against HIV.” Recent reports indicate that the United Nations and other influential bodies have significantly exaggerated the number of people affected by HIV and AIDS. Moreover, for well over a decade the number of new individuals being infected with HIV has been in decline.

In fact, the real top science story is a bit different and concerns a small group of scientists strangely fixated on removing tissue from penises. These men (for that is almost exclusively who they are) have published three studies suffering from fatal flaws that have been pointed to by numerous physicians and even leading HIV organizations in Australia and France.

The most common medical procedure in the US is the only one never shown to be medically justified to stop HIV or for any other reason. It is untenable, bordering on absurd, to suggest that flawed results regarding adult circumcision in Africa are remotely applicable to circumcision of infants in the US. Modalities of transmission and sociological conditions are vastly different. In Africa, one of the most common ways to become infected is through a visit to a health clinic! Moreover, the circumcision experiment has already been tried and has utterly failed here, as the US has both the highest circumcision rate and the highest HIV rate in the developed world.

With your position as one of this country’s premier science journals comes the responsibility to investigate and publish the truth. We ask that you set the record straight on this issue.

J. Steven Svoboda
Executive Director
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child