Circumcision denier derided
Circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV, most scientists agree, but the consensus is not universal. One dissenter is Ronald Goldman, a psychologist in Boston, in the US, who wrote to The Times yesterday decrying the use of the procedure as an HIV prophylactic. Goldman and his group, the Circumcision Resource Centre, give counselling to US men who say that they have emotional problems attributable to their being circumcised as children.Goldman's book, Circumcision: the Hidden Trauma, and his website, share anti-circumcision sentiments such as: "We are interconnected. When a baby boy's sexuality is not safe, no one's sexuality is safe."Goldman's comments in The Times yesterday were attacked by scientists. He blamed most of the HIV infections in Africa on contaminated injections and surgical procedures.Goldman said circumcision did not reduce the risk of HIV.Scientists and activists yesterday called his group "fringe fanatics" and "conspiracy theorists".Mitchell Warren, director of US advocacy group Avac, said he knew of the Goldman group."They quote Jewish texts but they are not 'a Jewish group'.""They are fringe fanatics, irrespective of faith, and without a scientific evidence base."The executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, Francois Venter, said: "Medical male circumcision is a highly effective and a safe way of preventing HIV. Like any prevention method, it isn't 100% effective [and] it can be a complex intervention, both medically and culturally."Dr Dino Rech, whose Centre for HIV and Aids Prevention Studies is performing about 2000 medical circumcisions a day during the circumcision season school holidays, said:Circumcision trials in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa were conducted independently by three groups, each affiliated to leading universities;All three trials produced similar results, showing that circumcision reduced the risk of contracting HIV by up to 60%;All three trials were stopped early when it became obvious that circumcision reduced HIV risk; andThe data were reviewed by an independent scientific panel at the World Health Organisation and found to be valid.A study, the results of which were released last year, showed that circumcision has been associated with a 59% reduction in syphilis in men.Scott Billy, the South African country director of Society for Family Health, said: "Anyone inclined to believe Goldman should consider his outrageous claim that 'most African HIV infections are transmitted by contaminated injections'."We are confident that thinking South Africans will dismiss him as an anti-circumcision fundamentalist - and trust the evidence to make up their own mind."Goldman retorted that claims that he was "on the fringe" "were a judgment that speaks more of the beliefs and biases of the judge than of the quality of my information".