CDC Releases Draft Guidelines Endorsing Circumcision

Says benefits, including reduced chances of sexually transmitted diseases, outweigh risks

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday released draft guidelines on circumcision that recommend doctors counsel parents and uncircumcised males on the health benefits of the procedure.

The guidelines do not outright call for circumcision of all male newborns, since that is a personal decision that may involve religious or cultural preferences, Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, told the Associated Press. But "the scientific evidence is clear that the benefits outweigh the risks." Clinical trials, many done in sub-Saharan Africa, have demonstrated that circumcision reduces HIV infection risk by 50 to 60 percent, the CDC guidelines note. The procedure also reduces by 30 percent the risk of contracting herpes simplex virus and human papillomavirus.

The guidelines do point out that circumcision has only been proven to prevent HIV and sexually transmitted diseases in men during vaginal sex. The procedure has not been proven to reduce the risk of infection through oral or anal sex, or to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to female partners. The scientific evidence is mixed regarding homosexual sex, the guidelines say, with some studies having shown that circumcision provides partial protection while other studies have not. Circumcision does reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in infants, according to the CDC guidelines.

The new draft guidelines mirror an updated policy on circumcision released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2012. "The American public should take confidence that these are pretty much converging guidelines. There is no doubt that it [circumcision] does confer health benefits and there is no doubt it can be performed safely, with a less than 1 percent risk of complications," Susan Blank, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the task force that authored the AAP policy statement, told HealthDay. "This is one thing a parent can do to protect the future health of their children."

The public can comment on the draft guidelines through Jan. 16, according to the CDC.

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