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Despite HIV
preventative effects, circumcision becomes less common

Despite HIV
preventative effects, circumcision becomes less common

Slightly more than half of U.S. males are circumcised as medical groups say it's not necessary.

Although studies have shown that men who are circumcised may be at a lower risk of HIV infection, the procedure is becoming less common in the United States, particularly on the East and West coasts, reports The Columbus Dispatch. U.S. circumcision rates fell 7.2% between 2001 and 2003 to a 50-year low of 55.9%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Circumcision rates are lowest on the East and West coasts, and highest in the Midwest, where 77.8% of male babies are circumcised. But overall rates of the procedure are falling in every region of the country, federal health officials say.

The main reason for the decline is that many leading health agencies and professional organizations say the procedure is not medically necessary--and as such many insurance companies have stopped covering it. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend circumcision, calling it an elective cosmetic procedure.

But some health officials have begun to tout the studies showing that circumcision lowers HIV risks as a reason to circumcise newborn baby boys. Studies in Africa have shown that circumcised heterosexual men are 60% less likely to become infected with HIV through unprotected sex. Although most research on circumcision has focused on straight men, researchers say their findings likely also apply to gay men who engage in unprotected anal sex.

Researchers believe circumcision helps protect against HIV because the foreskin of the penis contains a high concentration of cells that HIV can infect and sexual fluids can become trapped under the foreskin and placed in prolonged contact with these cells. Removing the foreskin limits the cells' exposure to sexual fluids. (

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