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Circumcision Rates Fall; Equates to Billions of Dollars in Future Health Care Costs

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Circumcision is a controversial issue, but it may be costing the U.S. billions of dollars, say some experts. Circumcision rates have fallen from a high of 79% of baby boys in the 1980s to 55% today, and this may be attributable to the fact that health insurance doesn't always cover the procedure. However, circumcision is related to lower rates of STDs, including genital herpes and HPV, and HIV.

Not only has insurance coverage fallen for circumcision, others flat out reject the notion that circumcision is morally or ethically correct and question its ability to prevent STDs and HIV. But it is difficult to argue with Johns Hopkins researchers who say that the health-related costs would increase astronomically if the rate of circumcision fell by just 10%, mainly because of the increase in HIV transmissions between uncircumcised men and their partners. In fact, the World Health Organization has supported the circumcision of adult men in Kenya, where the HIV infection rate runs high.

So what exactly would the tab be if there was a 10% decrease in the rate of circumcision? Johns Hopkins researchers say that it would equate to a half a billion dollar a year jump in health-related costs. On the other hand, the American Academy of Pediatrics has yet to comment on the researchers' conclusions. Overall, unless Medicaid continues to cover the procedure, more families may opt out of having their infant sons circumcised. Currently, 18 states' Medicaid programs do not cover it, arguing that it is unnecessary. The lack of comment from the American Academy of Pediatrics implicitly supports this notion, since the group has such an influential opinion.

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  1. Mark Lyndon says:
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    More misinformation by people trying to defend cutting parts off babies’ genitals. Despite almost no-one in Europe except for Jewish and Muslim families circumcising, Europe has *lower* rates of HIV.

    Even in Africa (from a USAID report):
    “There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence—in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher.”

    It is unclear if circumcised men are more likely to infect women. The only ever randomized controlled trial into male-to-female transmission showed a 54% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised.

    Women have “skin folds” too, but we don’t cut parts off baby girls. Think how much money we could save by removing their breast buds too (breast cancer affects about 12% of women, and kills about 3%).