Saturday, 6 March 2010

Circumcision and human rights

This is a fascinating article from UNAIDS, entitled "Safe, Voluntary, Informed Male Circumcision and Comprehensive HIV Prevention Programming: Guidance for decision-makers on human rights, ethical and legal considerations".

I think this quote captures its essence:

Given that it reduces a man’s risk of acquisition of HIV through penile–vaginal intercourse, male circumcision provides an opportunity to reinforce HIV prevention efforts and thereby promote human rights. A human rights-based approach to introducing or expanding male circumcision services requires measures to ensure that the procedure can be carried out safely, under conditions of informed consent, and without discrimination. From a public health and human rights perspective, it also requires that governments implement male-circumcision programmes in the context of a comprehensive HIV prevention framework. This will ensure that “risk compensation” (i.e. increases in risky behaviour sparked by decreases in perceived risk) (Cassell et al., 2006) does not undermine the partially protective effects of male circumcision for men.

(Emph. added)

I'll also add the following quote re infant circumcision:

Studies have shown that the circumcision of infants is simpler and carries fewer medical risks than circumcision of older people. Parents considering circumcision of an infant boy should be provided with all the facts so they can determine the best interest of the child. In these cases, determining the best interests of the child should include diverse factors—the positive and negative health, religious, cultural and social benefits. Because the HIV-related benefits of circumcision only arise in the context of sexual activity, and because male circumcision is an irreversible procedure, parents may consider that the child should be given the option to decide for himself when he has the capacity to do so.

It's an excellent document, worth reading in full.