New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has raised questions about plans recently announced by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to launch a campaign promoting male circumcision. The campaign was recommended by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS as a way to help reduce the spread of HIV, the New York Times reports.
Following the health department's announcement, Bloomberg officials said the administration has not decided if it will pursue the campaign. UNAIDS and WHO released the recommendations in response to growing evidence that routine male circumcision could reduce a man's risk of contracting HIV through heterosexual sex.
According to final data from two NIH-funded studies conducted in Uganda and Kenya published in the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Lancet, routine male circumcision could reduce a man's risk of HIV infection through heterosexual sex by 65%.
New York's health department has begun asking community organizations and gay advocacy groups to discuss male circumcision with members and has requested that the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs hospitals and clinics in the city, provide circumcisions at no cost for men who lack health insurance.
City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said he believes health insurers might agree to cover preventive circumcisions because they already cover them as treatments for infections and urinary blockage.
According to Frieden, even 1,000 circumcisions performed in certain populations could curb the spread of HIV in the city (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/5). Bloomberg at a news conference said that he has not discussed the campaign with Frieden or HHC Chair Alan Aviles.
Bloomberg also expressed support for seeking new methods to combat the spread of HIV but said he is not convinced that government should be involved in promoting or providing male circumcisions.
According to Bloomberg, the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the city is very high, despite education campaigns. "We have to do something about it, and we should be looking at everything," Bloomberg said, adding that when "reputable health organizations talk about ways to do it, you certainly are going to give it some serious consideration." He also said that "whether it's something that the government should be involved in, or just giving advice and making sure that people get educated, education in the end is the real tool to stop the spread of AIDS in our society"
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation