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Activists lobby
to classify circumcision as human rights abuse

Activists lobby
to classify circumcision as human rights abuse

Despite a study presented last month at the Third International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment in Rio de Janeiro showing that male circumcision can reduce HIV infection rates among sexually active men by up to 70%, activists--who call themselves "intactivists"--are lobbying the United Nations to declare the procedure a human rights violation, Religion News Services reports.

The study, conducted in South Africa, was the first to specifically gauge the impact circumcision has on HIV transmission rates. It showed that circumcision prevented more than six in 10 potential HIV infections. Although the study focused only on the impact of circumcision on men, researchers say it also would likely significantly reduce HIV infection rates among women because their male sex partners would be at less risk of infection.

Based on the study's findings, some AIDS experts are now saying that circumcision should be seen as an effective HIV prevention measure, particularly in poor nations where condoms are unavailable or not socially acceptable.

But opponents to circumcision say the procedure is a human rights violation akin to female genital cutting. George Denniston, president of Seattle-based Doctors Against Circumcision, says circumcising a nonconsenting child is not only unfair but should be illegal. He is lobbying U.S. lawmakers to get them to outlaw the practice on U.S. boys under age 18. Matthew Hess, president of San Diego-based after the "male genital mutilation" bill backed by Denniston, is organizing a letter-writing campaign to U.N. officials to get the organization to urge a worldwide ban on the procedure. "I find it quite ironic that the United Nations condemns female circumcision as a human rights crime while it simultaneously encourages male circumcision as a preventive health measure," he said in a press release.

No members of Congress have agreed to sponsor the bill championed by Deniston and Hess. U.N. officials declined to comment on the issue.

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