Male Circumcision as Public Health Tool Focus of Lawrence University Biomedical Ethics Talk

APPLETON, WIS. — The evidence for male circumcision as an effective health promotion and the questions raised by implementing a circumcision policy will be examined in Lawrence University’s Edward F. Mielke Lecture Series in Biomedical Ethics.

Robert Bailey, professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, presents “Male Circumcision: Genital Mutilation or Sound Public Health” Wednesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. in Lawrence’s Wriston Art Center auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

According to Bailey, approximately 4,000 men and 4,500 women are infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa every day. While an effective vaccine against new infections is years away, male circumcision has been likened to a vaccine, proving about 60% effective in preventing new HIV infections in adult heterosexual men. Circumcision also has been found to protect against urinary tract infections, some sexually transmitted diseases, penile cancer and cervical cancer in female partners of circumcised men.

Three clinical trials have produced compelling results and the World Health Organization and several UN agencies have recommended male circumcision be made widely available in regions it is not widely practiced and HIV prevalence is high.

Bailey will discuss several important questions raised by moving from research findings to policy implementation, including: will circumcision be acceptable to people in communities where it is not commonly practiced or will those who do get circumcised be stigmatized or discriminated against?; if circumcision is promoted as an effective HIV prevention measure, will men engage in higher risk sexual behaviors than they did before they were circumcised?; and will men use circumcision as an excuse not to use condoms, making it more difficult for women to negotiate safe sex?

The author or co-author of six books, Bailey serves as a consultant on matters relating to national and international health and disease prevention for the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and UNICEF, among others. A specialist on issues of peoples’ health in Africa, he is leading efforts with the Kenya Ministry of Health funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide circumcision and counseling services for HIV prevention in western Kenya.

Bailey’s appearance is supported by the Edward F. Mielke Lectureship in Ethics in Medicine, Science and Society. The lectureship was established in 1985 by the Mielke Family Foundation in memory of Dr. Edward F. Mielke, a leading member of the Appleton medical community and the founder of the Appleton Medical Center.