Dr. Dean Edell: Circumcision is inappropriate in general, especially to prevent HIV/AIDS

Dr. Dean Edell, who hosted the syndicated Dr. Dean Edell radio program, discusses the absurdity of circumcision.

(slightly modified)

Stephen Lewis, [who is Jewish], of the Stephen Lewis Foundation solicits funds to enforce genital mutilation on infant boys in Africa.

In his YouTube video, Lewis claims male circumcision is an “inspired preventive technology” to reduce the spread of AIDS.

Stephen Lewis calls opponents of circumcision “male sexists”.

Dr. Dean Edell, [who is also Jewish], is a longtime opponent of infant circumcision.

Dr. Dean Edell

There really is no consistency in circumcision in how its done—the operative technique. There are recommendations and guidelines, but:

  • You're dealing with something so small [in the case of a young child's penis].

  • [There are different tools and clamps for different techniques]: There's the method that's used in the brit milah (in Jewish ceremonies), [and then] there's a free-hand technique, and it goes on and on and on.

Consequently, there are horrible tragedies that you hear about; we sweep them under the rug as we do in other areas of medicine because we say the greater good is served: [We do] heart operation[s] to save [lives], [but] some people die—we kind of accept that. To me, it's a balance [between] the benefits and risks in all medical procedures—I don't care whether it's a drug or an operation or whatever—you have to weigh the benefits and the risks. [Unfortunately], we can get very impractical about that.

If we were honest with ourselves, we [would] have to admit that many of the preventive tests that we do [would have to be done] on hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people [in order] to prevent a single case. [Of course], I can say that [same thing] about some of [the most dangerous diseases]—but those are killers!

[With regard to circumcision], what is a tolerable side effect rate? How many young boys have to lose their penises all together from botched circumcisions [before it becomes intolerable]? A little bleeding, a little infection, a little trauma—you know, we kind of tolerate it.

The actual side effect rate [for circumcision] is not known; [many side effects] are not [considered] “reportable”—[though], we certainly know when major things happen. On the other side of it, even when a circumcision is done perfectly by those criteria, there are [still] side effects in terms of functionality and what it means for a man and his sexuality.

[For a lot of men], too much skin is taken off, [and] there's a tension—there isn't enough skin for normal erection, and you can get irritation and tears [from just] masturbatory activity or during intercourse. After all, the foreskin was put there [for a reason] by God—or Mother Nature, depending on [your] particular belief.

So, the variability [in the results of circumcision] is interesting [and] is often not talked about. That variability, to me, should open the door to why this operation needs to be abandoned for medical and also ethical reasons.

Let's talk about circumcision in Africa and all the “news” people have heard about circumcision possibly preventing the transmission of AIDS.

I've been to just about every country in Africa, and I can tell you something: “Silly” would be a compliment [for describing this plan].

  • We can't [even] deliver 50 cents worth of tetracyclin [to prevent] blindness.

  • We can't deliver food or fresh water.

Africa is a very different place. The idea that we Westerners are going to march into Africa, which is so vast [and] so complicated, and we're going to circumcise—perform an operation!—on millions and millions and millions of men when we [cannot even] feed these people [or] get them useful jobs [or] bring them freshwater is so naive that it expresses to me the desperation of the pro-circumcision lobby.

[Men in Africa] who have been told [that circumcision prevents HIV/AIDS] figure:

Aha! I'll get a circumcision! [Then], I don't need to use condoms!

Why would any man line up and lay his penis on the table to get it chopped if he didn't think there were a major—major—plus, namely not having to use condoms? [After all], if he's so afraid of HIV, [he would already just] use condoms [which are by themselves extremely effective in preventing sexually-transmitted HIV]. So, the unexpected consequences of this will be to increase the spread of AIDS.

I can give you a lot of examples [of] how we've done this [sort of thing] in medicine and [have] not seen the unexpected consequences [that eventually came] back to bite us in the butt, and this will be [another example].

[There are a number of problems presented by the pro-circumcision studies from Africa themselves]:

  • The transmission rate of AIDS is higher after circumcision for a period of time.

  • The studies have been done on a very select group of men at fantastic, high quality, hygenic facilities, with doctors who really want to prove their case.

  • These men [who were circumcised for the studies were] lectured about [the importance of] condoms.

  • These men [were] lectured about AIDS prevention.

[That] is not what it would be like if we started to do this routinely. After all, how many of these operations can we do to prevent a disease that is already just about 100% preventable?—and to do it on babies? I mean, let's hope, of course, that AIDS is a [disease that is] curable [and] preventable by vaccine in 20-to-30 years from now, but [if it's not], to subject helpless infants to this operation believing it's going to prevent an [already] preventable sexually transmitted disease—it is silly!

There was a parallel study when the first AIDS circumcision studies came out; it was a parallel study that came out at the same time [but] it got no press whatsoever, and it needs to be promulgated. They found that if you supply:

  • freshwater
  • soap

to men, you can bring down AIDS [by] the same degree [as claimed for circumcision]—and it makes sense, doesn't it? Indeed, yes, if you have a foreskin, I can accept that germs may want to hide there and could hide there more effectively (if you have teeth, you can get decay, after all), [but] I really honestly don't care; even if you could convince me—even if [circumcision could bring] AIDS transmission down by HUGE numbers—it still doesn't impress me, and it is not a solution to the problem because of some of the things that I've mentioned; it'll backfire.

Studies do not show the same [results] in the West. You know, we in America have the highest rate of cirumcision and the highest rate of HIV [among developed countries]; circumcision doesn't seem to do much for us. We should be seeing AIDS spreading rampantly throughout Europe, not America; after all, men in Europe are [not circumcised]. So, you take a step back and take a practical perspective, and all of a sudden the whole argument [for using circumcision to prevent HIV] falls apart.

I once had an East African doctor tell me:

You know, we really ought to circumcise women, because I have found in my practice that circumcised women don't get sexually transmitted diseases as much, and they are much much cleaner, you know.

Can you imagine proposing [to circumcise] girls in America for the same reasons that we use to circumcise [boys]? So, the data does not impress me at all; there is something [in it that] almost reminds me of Western colonialism: “We in the West, we know better. We're going to go to Africa, [and] we're going to fix [their] problems.”

The real [solution] has to do with the preventive things that we [all already] know: You can travel through Africa [and] once in a while you see a billboard that says “ABC” on it:

  • Abstinence
  • Be faithful
  • Condoms

Those are the billboards—that's the campaign. [However, they are] crumby little hand-painted billboards; as far as I can tell, that's as far as we've gone [with that basic but important message]. We can do so much [more] with education—and with scientific research, [but] as I said, this [circumcision thing] is going to backfire and make a lot of men unhappy, because when they wake up and realize what's been done, and when they start realizing how their sexual sensitivity has been altered... I think this is not going to be a positive period of time in Western medical history.

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