When San Francisco moved to ban plastic bags in 2007 or even when the city stopped the sale of McDonald's Happy Meals last year, few who know the city's liberal bent were surprised. But a push to end circumcision in the City by the Bay is getting some people riled up'and a debate over the health implications of such a decision is flaring.
Lloyd Schofield is leading the battle against circumcision, and he's hoping to gather 7,168 signatures to qualify the issue for the next citywide election in November. If the initiative manages to get on the ballot and pass, anyone convicted of circumcising a minor could receive a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. Schofield's website (SFMGMBill.org) indicated that, as of March, he was close to obtaining the necessary signatures'the retired 58-year-old describes circumcision as 'genital cutting' and says the procedure can cause pain, nerve destruction, infection, disfigurement, and sometimes death. Jewish and Muslim groups have vowed to fight Schofield's effort.
Circumcision has been found to bring HIV rates down in Africa. Recent clinical trials in Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda showed circumcision reduced infection risk by 60%. But Schofield doesn't buy it.
'There is a reverse correlation between circumcision and HIV,' Schofield says. 'Some nations in Africa have a higher HIV infection rate'even though most of the men are circumcised'than countries where most of the men are intact. The U.S. has a much higher HIV and STD rate than Europe, and most American men have been circumcised, while most European men are intact.'
A San Francisco study conducted in 2008 found that circumcision had a negligible effect on HIV transmission among men who have sex with men. The mixed messages may be discouraging San Francisco AIDS organizations from taking a position on the matter. San Francisco's AIDS Emergency Fund declined comment, and the city's Stop AIDS Project did not respond to requests for comment.