Let's say that earlier yesterday I had an interesting con- versation with someone that read somewhere that few people in Colombia, my home country, were circumcised. This in light of a report earlier this week from the World Health Organization and UNAIDS recommending that "countries with rampant AIDS epidemics should begin offering free or subsidized circumcisions in hopes of preventing millions of new infections and deaths" (according to the Washington Post).
The person, who shall remain anonymous, expressed interest in "discussing" whether it made sense to formulate campaigns in Colombia to make people aware of the HIV transmission risks for uncut men and encourage them to get circumcised or, pushing it a bit, whether there should be campaigns to get Colombian immigrants in the United States on the same path to circumcision.
Let's just say that I thought this person was kidding.
"But the research shows...!" the person said, and I knew it wasn't a joke.
Let's clear up some things: No, I am not circumcised. No, I don't have anything against people who are. No, I don't get why some fret so much about not having foreskin. And no, I don't get people who seek foreskin reconstruction either. In plain terms, dick is dick! Enjoy what you have and don't fret so much!
But it turns out that the person who made the comments is also indirectly related to the New York City Department of Health which now makes me wonder if he knew more than he was letting on: Today the New York Times reveals that "New York City Plans to Promote Circumcision."
Hm. All of a sudden it does not seem as random a conversation. Still, I am aghast that the NYC DOH would seek to promote invasive surgical interventions for adult males as an HIV/AIDS prevention strategy.
Yesterday I tried to argue that there were other variables such as country-specific hygiene practices and HIV prevention strategies that had to be taken into account. Colombia might have a high number of uncircumsized men but it lags behind some African and Asian countries in terms of HIV incidence.
But when it comes to public policy and HIV prevention sometimes a bad idea just captures the imagination and becomes, for lack of a better word, "fashionable" to fund. As with other bad ideas, this one will probably take a couple of years to run its course before a new hot topic arrives.
In the meantime, where are those other prevention dollars? No need to get rid of foreskins. Just fund programs that make men at risk - and particularly gay or bi men (whether uncircumcised or not) - feel that they are worth something which is at the core of a person's ability to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.
UPDATE: Joe.My.God readers have left a few choice comments as well here.
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