Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy 4th of July: Circumcision as American as Apple Pie

Happy Fourth of July, blog readers! As we celebrate America's independence for over 200 years, it's also a good time to celebrate our freedom of choice to circumcise our sons in the traditional American way.

Circumcision is as American as apple pie. "We are a circumcised country," one pediatrician was quoted as saying. The roots of the practice are very old and very deep in this country, perhaps not back to the Founding Fathers but at least 150 years old.

Today, to be uncircumcised is to be un-American, not in the political context, but in the social context. That's why so many second generation Americans from all over the world circumcise their sons -- "to be American" -- is the common refrain. This accepted belief, that you're not really a true American if you're uncircumcised, drives the anti-circ fanatics ballistic. But it's deeply engrained in the fabric of our country.

I would argue that circumcision unites us. We may come from different religious, ethnic, and national backgrounds -- but one thing almost all American boys share is a circumcised penis. It may strike uncircumcised foreigners as whacky, but it's the one thing (hopefully along with our common language) that American males can share together.

Admittedly, circumcision is not as universal here as it is in the Phillipines or Korea. The Filipino government offers free circumcisions to encourage a foreskin-free nation, while some of our states have withdrawn free Medicaid coverage of circumcision. This will likely change when the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics update their policies to encourage circumcision as an effective HIV, STD, HPV prophylactic.

In the meantime, on this Fourth of July, let's celebrate our circumcised nation and our freedom to circumcise our sons, something the anti-circs are working hard to deny us. They won't succeed because America is and will always be a circumcised country.

Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Be A Good Father: Circumcise Your Son

It's Father's Day in the USA and many other countries -- a great day to remember that good fathers circumcise their sons.

The good news is that most dads in this country, who are thankfully circumcised, understand the importance of continuing the "family tradition." Despite the great efforts of the anti-circs to portray these dads as mindless butchers, most fathers know that the greatest gift they can give their sons is a clean healthy foreskin-free penis with which to perpetuate the generations.

On Father's Day, my greatest respect goes out to uncircumcised fathers who choose to circumcise their sons. There are a growing number of these dads who not only recognize the health benefits they are conferring on their boys but who are also beginning a new family tradition of clean-cut healthy males. If you are one of those dads, you are very special and deserve special thanks this Father's Day.

Of course, the worst fathers are those circumcised dads who have been so manipulated by the anti-circ foreskin lovers that they mistakenly impose a filthy foreskin on their sons. One can only hope they get smarter because it's never too late to circumcise.

Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mandatory Circumcision for Zambia Police Recruits

The Zambia National Broadcasting Company is reporting a new policy in that country: the mandatory circumcision of all male police recruits. Congratulations! I wonder if all policemen in America are circumcised? How ironic that American government officials are pushing for male circumcision in Africa but are strangely quiet here at home. Shouldn't we have a policy that all police and, frankly, U.S. military be circumcised? What's good in Africa is good at home.

"Recruits to be circumcised"

"The Zambia Police Service says plans are underway to introduce a mandatory circumcision policy for all male recruits. Kamfinsa Police training school commanding Officer, Malcom Mulenga, says male circumcision will help prevent HIV and AIDS cases in the Police service.
Mr. Mulenga, says the Zambia Police Service has continued to lose qualified manpower as a result HIV/AIDS. "

"He was speaking when the American government handed over a Voluntary Counselling and Testing centre to the Zambia Police Service. At the same function, Home Affairs deputy Minister, Misheck Bonshe, welcomed plans by the Zambia Police Service to circumcise male recruits. And the United States Charge d' Affairs for Zambia, Michael Koplovsky, said his government has set aside K1.5 billion for the construction of health centres for police officers."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Microsoft's Bill Gates Pushes Circumcision

The anti-circs will go ballistic. Every time you buy a Microsoft product and help Bill Gates pump money into his foundation, you are circumcising a male somewhere in the world! That's because, according to the New Scientist (see below), Gates is pumping $50 million into a program to circumcise 650,000 Africans. Bravo, Bill!

Gates knows what most rational, thinking people know -- circumcision is good for public health -- and a foreskin-free country, whether in America or Africa, is good for every male and his partners. Of course, I just love the idea that every time we use a PC, we are helping to make the world a clean-cut, safer place. Any bets on how long it will be before the anti-circ fanatics organize a boycott of Microsoft?

"Bill Gates helps fund mass circumcision programme"

"Microsoft founder Bill Gates last week injected $50 million into a programme to circumcise up to 650,000 men in Swaziland and Zambia."

"The goal of the project is to curb the transmission of HIV in two of the AIDS hotspots of the world, as circumcision has been shown to more than halve the risk of men becoming infected.
Funded for five years through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the programme is the first to massively scale up provision of circumcision by fully trained medical practitioners."

"Traditional methods of circumcision sometimes harm and even kill boys and young men. The network of 250 teams of providers will be managed by Population Services International, a global health organisation based in Washington, DC."

"It's great news, and this is exactly what's needed," says Catherine Hankins, chief scientific adviser at UNAIDS. "We've been working on development of guidance and technical support, and these development partners are now being funded to take it forward," says Haskins.

"Hankins said that Kenya has the most advanced programme, with 20,000 men newly circumcised, and plans are also well-advanced in Botswana and Namibia. But she stressed that circumcision can't alone protect men or women against HIV, and that circumcised men should still take additional precautions, such as wearing condoms and not engaging in risky or promiscuous sex."

"Ensuring they understand how to maintain safe behaviours is key, and the procedure would be 100-per-cent accompanied by education to that end", says a PSI spokesman.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Americans Lead Way for Africa on Circumcision, But Don't Forget the Homefront

I have blogged about this before, but it's worth repeating. The United States is showing amazing leadership in circumcising African males, as the latest story below reports, and who can quarrel with doing that on that disease-infected, foreskin-afflicted continent. But I worry that the strong campaign to circumcise African males may blind the eye to what is happening here at home. Sadly, even if the anti-circs exaggerate the numbers, more American boys, especially Latinos and blacks, are going uncircumcised. In part, that's because the government Medicaid program no longer pays for this important procedure in about a dozen states. Poor blacks and Latinos are the first to suffer.

So while we can all applaud the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. government through PEPFAR, and PSI -- let's not forget the boys at home who need to be circumcised, too.

Here's a June 11 press release from PSI:

"The Male Circumcision Partnership is launching a massive scale-up of voluntary male circumcision services in Swaziland and Zambia. The Partnership is supported by a five-year, US$50 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Population Services International (PSI). PSI and partners Marie Stopes International, Jhpiego, The Population Council and the governments of Swaziland and Zambia estimate that the project will provide voluntary male circumcision services to nearly 650,000 men."

"The Male Circumcision Partnership program in Swaziland and Zambia also builds upon the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) supported medical male circumcision activities in each country. This partnership is evidence of a strong and growing coordination among the Gates Foundation, PEPFAR and other partners under the leadership of host country governments to support evidence-based medical male circumcision for the purpose of HIV prevention."

"Cited by both the World Health Organization and UNAIDS as an "important intervention," male circumcision reduces HIV infections among men by 60%,according to scientific research -- more effective than any vaccine currently in development."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Aussie/NZ Doctors Cave to Anti-Circumcision Fanatics

According to The Age, a Melbourne newspaper, the Australia/New Zealand college of physicians is not yet ready to do the obvious -- recommend the circumcision of all baby boys. Anti-circumcision fanatics have been more successful on that continent than in the USA, dropping the number of healthy, clean-cut boys over the last twenty years.

Here's the article from its June 6 paper with my comments in boldface:

"THE Royal Australasian College of Physicians has flagged it will not change its policy against circumcision despite evidence the procedure can prevent the spread of HIV and other sexual diseases." [How much medical evidence do these docs need?]

"The college, which represents physicians and pediatricians in Australia and New Zealand, has adopted the position that "there is no medical indication for routine neonatal circumcision" since 2004." [A bad decision in 2004, but much worse in 2009.]

"But it has been reviewing this stance in part following recent scientific research suggesting that the risk of HIV infection could be dramatically reduced by the practice. Three trials conducted in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda between 2005 and 2007 showed conclusively, according to the World Health Organisation, "that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60 per cent". [Repeat, docs, circumcision cuts the risk of HIV by 60% -- what are you waiting for? 100%?].

"Further research, published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, has found that circumcision can reduce the transfer of human papillomavirus — the chief cause of cervical cancer in women — by 35 per cent, and herpes simplex virus — the chief cause of herpes — by 25 per cent." [So, on top of the HIV reduction, it cuts cervical cancer in women by 35% and herpes by 25%, and you Aussie/NZ docs still won't acknowledge the obvious?]

"The journal said the findings underscored "the potential public health benefits of the procedure". The college, which began its review in 2006 and was supposed to come out with a revised policy at the end of 2007, will not do so until the end of this year, as it considers the new evidence." [Better late than never, but what are you waiting for?]

"It is estimated that 10 to 20 per cent of male infants are circumcised in Australia." [Ewww, the thought of so many filthy foreskins in Australia should make us all sick, especially their future female partners].

"The chairman of the college's panel considering the issue, David Forbes, of the University of Western Australia's school of pediatrics, said the African studies had delayed the new recommendation, but so too had the fact "it is a contentious and non-clear-cut issue". [It's only contentious for the foreskin lovers who won't recognize medical evidence.]

"It's quite clear that there's evidence that circumcision in adult males helps prevent HIV in Africa," said Professor Forbes. "It's not so clear that circumcision in Australia in infants is of benefit to the infants or the community. Policy is about getting the right message to health planners so that we have safe but cost-effective expenditure." [The best time to circumcise is at birth, folks. Safer, cheaper, faster, pain-free, cleaner. Everyone knows that.]

New concerns about the practice of circumcision in Australia were raised last week after the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute found that parental consent might not be enough to protect the circumcisers of baby boys from later legal action. [Another distraction by the foreskin lovers. Since when can parents not consent to life-saving medical procedures for their children?]

No specific laws regulate the removal of the foreskin. [The biggest improvement would be a law to require circumcision before entering school, as a public safety measure like vaccinations.]

Professor Forbes said he wanted to have the college's position "finalised by the end of this year, hopefully before". [Again, better late than never].

"He said the benefit of reducing human papillomavirus "appears not to be such an issue in Australia" because a vaccine was being produced. And there were important differences between the HIV situation in Africa and Australia: HIV rates in Australia were far lower and condom use was much higher." [HIV rates are lower in Australia because the previous generation, now sexually active, were circumcised at birth. With so many young boys now afflicted with a foreskin, those rates will change by 2020].

"He said while there was clear evidence that circumcision reduced the rate of urinary tract infection, this alone did not justify routine use of the procedure as the infection rate was so small.
He said the 10-strong panel consisted of pediatricians, surgeons and policy and public health experts. "There are extremely strong views at both ends of the spectrum for those who promote circumcision and those who oppose it," he said." [Yes, another benefit of circumcision, the reduction of UTI. The list of benefits goes on and on and on, but Aussie docs ignore them].

"Undertaking elective surgery of minors who are not able to consent is for many pediatricians an even bigger issue, especially when there are examples of (Muslim) societies who elect to have it at puberty when people can choose." [This 'consent' issue is another red herring raised by the anti-circ fanatics. What about parental rights and responsibilities to keep their children healthy?]

"Dr Forbes declined to preview what the college's recommendation would be. "Policy change tends to be evolutionary, not revolutionary, and given that there are no trials of neonatal circumcision for prevention of HIV, I wouldn't expect revolutionary change. I would expect evolutionary change." [Just follow the science, dudes].

"Roger Short, from Melbourne University's department of obstetrics and gynaecology, hopes the college will view circumcision in a more favourable light. "It would be exciting to see the Royal College come forward with a slightly more progressive attitude than its previous pronouncements," he said. "The evidence is coming in, and it is irrefutable, that there are major benefits." [Thank you, Dr. Short. You're a doc who speaks the truth on the science].

"Professor Short said there were no grounds for making circumcision mandatory." [Well, I disagree about this. Circumcision should be required for all boys, with exceptions for the obvious conscientious religious objection].

Instead, the college should change its recommendation. "I think we should go from saying 'when in doubt, don't circumcise' to 'when in doubt, do'." [Absolutely. So Aussie/NZ docs, just do it].

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tim Tebow & Circumcision: a Public Service Circumciser

I feel sorry for Tim Tebow, the awesome quarterback for the University of Florida 'Gators, not because he has a terrific future in front of him. But because people cannot seem to blog about him without tossing in his missionary trip to the Phillipines during the 2008 spring break.

During that trip, Tim took part in circumcising Filipino boys who almost all get circumcised in that country. Circumcision is a rite of passage in a country that is about 95% foreskin-free. To be uncircumcised is to be "supot" or "pisot." Both words carry a negative connotation far beyond the simple expression "uncircumcised," the literal translation. If you call another dude supot, it's like saying he's unclean, a baby, and unworthy to be a man.

While some college kids go on drunken debaucheries during spring break, Tim was helping out his father on a mission trip. Here was the account at the time:

"In an impoverished village outside General Santos City in the Philippines, Tebow helped circumcise impoverished children. On the Friday of a weeklong trip to the orphanage his father's ministry runs in Southeast Asia, Tebow assisted with the care of locals who had walked miles to the temporary clinic that the ministry helped organize. More than 250 people underwent medical and dental procedures, some of them from "Dr. Tebow," who has no formal surgical training."

"The first time, it was nerve-racking," he said. "Hands were shaking a little bit. I mean, I'm cutting somebody. You can't do those kinds of things in the United States. But those people really needed the surgeries. We needed to help them."

"Tebow didn't plan on operating that day in the Philippines -- his job was to preach to the hundreds of people before they had teeth pulled or cysts removed. But as the day rolled on, he grew curious about the three Filipino doctors and his friend, UF graduate and aspiring doctor Richard "R.B." Moleno, in the bus-sized vehicle that served as a mobile hospital.

"Tebow started as a helper and gofer, holding tools and running errands for the medics. By afternoon, he was asking questions and looking for more active ways to help. And by the end of an exhausting day, he was wearing gloves and a mask, wielding surgical scissors, finishing off stitches with a snip."

In my view, Tim Tebow's public service circumcision of Filipino boys is something to praise, not ridicule. But, of course, the media is the media. And Tebow is a lightening rod. I just hope as he enters the NFL, he'll remember how important it is to promote a clean-cut, foreskin-free country both here at home and in Asia, too.