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(The Roman senator Cato was in the habit of ending every speech on any subject with those words - it helped that "must be destroyed" was a single splendid Latin word, "delenda".
Eventually the Senate agreed to destroy Carthage, with disastrous consequences for Rome.) Recently, several studies have been published, most from Africa, one from India, claiming to show a link between having an intact penis and a higher risk of HIV infection.
As controls on "psychic" research are tightened, the effects found steadily diminish, and when control is complete, the effects vanish. These results are certainly consistent with the null hypothesis, that circumcision has no effect on HIV acquisition: the confounding factors have just not all been found yet.
Yet already this study is being touted as a reason for gay men to get circumcised.] Studies that claim to find a correlation between intactness and HIV transmission are not uncommonly misreported in a way that plays up the "protective effect".
"Scientists have power by virtue of the respect commanded by the discipline.
We may therefore be sorely tempted to misuse that power in furthering a personal prejudice or social goal -- why not provide that extra oomph by extending the umbrella of science over a personal preference in ethics or politics?
We have shown for the first time that [men who have sex with men] who predominantly take on the insertive role in sex are less likely to contract HIV if theyve been circumcised, said Dr.
David Templeton from the National Center for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research in Sydney.
They tend to have two things in common - flawed work, and a passage near the end saying "Therefore, universal male circumcision should be considered as a preventive measure against HIV infection" or words to that effect. The latest study (2006) is the most careful so far to avoid the mistakes of its predecessors, but it still falls far short of justifying mass circumcision campagns of men in Africa, let alone Routine Infant Circumcision.