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Why do Uncut Guys Get Blamed for Spreading HIV?

David

Stigma can destroy a perfectly good penis, even when it looks, feels, and acts like a divine stalk of pleasure at your fingertips. Whether we like it or not, the foreskin comes with a lot of ideas attached to it — and not all of them are good.

The growing case for circumcision has been reported by Plus before. While several types of research (mainly in Africa) have shown it reduces the risk of HIV transmission through penile-vaginal sex, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, studies determining whether circumcision reduces HIV transmission, either to female or male partners, indicate mixed results.

During the AIDS epidemic, nearly 85% of adult men were circumcised, Psychology Today reported, and yet HIV still spread. According to PT, the three studies in Africa claiming that circumcision prevented HIV had many flaws, including that they were stopped before the results came in. Unfortunately these studies gained publicity around the world, even a widespread belief in Africa that if you’re circumcised you don’t need to wear a condom. In fact, Plus reported that Kenyans lead the world in voluntary male circumcisions to prevent HIV (40,000 in December 2010 alone).

Plus also reported about a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, showing that gay guys who were circumcised were 14 Percent less likely to be HIV-positive than those who were not. But to use circumcision as a form of prevention doesn’t make sense. As CDC researcher Gregorio Millett pointed out, there isn’t “enough data out there right to now to show whether there’s a benefit.”

But let’s get back to the stigma. How did it begin and why is it here? For a while, uncut men were fighting against an idea that foreskin is unclean, prone to spreading infection, and even more disturbing, totally un-American. After all, circumcision is a time honored American tradition, but have we been changing our tune in the last few decades?

Figures from the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC show that rates of circumcision in America dropped ten percent in the last thirty years. In comparison to the nearly 70% of males in the world who are uncircumcised, the United States is one of the leading countries in the world who choose to circumcise their male babies. So is it a lack of information that fuels stigma around foreskin, or is it merely cultural?

At the end of the day, misinformation is dangerous when it comes to health. Whether you’re cut or uncut, there is one thing that will always prevent STD transmission: practicing safe sex. No amount of extra skin on a penis can stop you from wrapping it with a condom. We already know that. So let's stop the stigma. 

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