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Circumcision Controversy: Will CDC Urge Procedure For Baby Boys?


2 Star

Circumcision Controversy: Will CDC Urge Procedure For Baby Boys?

Our Review Summary

This piece presents the rationale behind a possible recommendation from the CDC for all U.S. boys to be circumcised. This was prompted by trials in Africa that found circumcised men had a much lower risk of contracting HIV from their female partners compare to uncircumcised men.  As the story points out, this same impact may not be seen in the U.S. given that the majority of new cases here are found in men who have sex with men.  While this story does an adequate job of conveying the gist of why the CDC is considering a recommendation to circumcise boys, it would have been strengthened if it had included,

  • a discussion of cost and insurance coverage;
  • multiple viewpoints from independent sources;
  • other ways to prevent HIV infection;
  • more information on the studies, particularly data; and
  • potential risks of circumcision, as well as its other health benefits.

In the end, we wonder if the piece didn’t confuse more than clarify for many viewers.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

This story did not discuss the cost of circumcision or its coverage by insurance companies. Currently, some state Medicaid programs do not cover its cost.  So this can be a significant issue. 

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The piece mentions that circumcision cut the risk of HIV infection by more than half in heterosexual African men, but it didn’t explain "half of what?". See our primer on absolute versus relative risks. Is the segment giving relative or absolute data? The story could have also mentioned other benefits associated with circumcision, such as reduced risk of urinary tract infections and cancer.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

This story does not provide a sufficient discussion on the potential risks of circumcision, such as infection and minor bleeding. The story states:  "…for adult men getting circumcised…it’s a bigger deal…adult men will tell you the recovery is tougher."  What does a "bigger deal" and "tougher recovery" actually mean? 

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

This story accurately communicated that the risk of contracting HIV in Africa is reduced in circumcised men.  However, more information about the studies would have been useful. For example, the men in the studies were circumcised as adults.   Dr. Snyderman states that circumcision does not reduce the spread of HIV among men who have sex with men; however, researchers do not actually know if circumcision affects the rate of HIV transmission in this population. It would be more accurate to say that there is currently no good evidence on the topic. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


Studies found that circumcised men in Africa have a lower risk of contracting HIV from women compared to uncircumcised men; however, the piece makes it clear that these results may not be translated to the U.S. In Africa, HIV is primary spread by heterosexual sex, whereas, in the U.S. men who have sex with men make up the majority of newly diagnosed cases. Additionally, the overall risk of HIV is lower in the U.S. compared to Africa, a point that could have been made clearer in the story. 

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

This story did not interview any independent sources.  Including comments from both critics and proponents of the potential CDC recommendation would have been valuable. The story speculates on what the CDC will recommend and how the American Academy of Pediatrics will react, but hearing directly from the leadership of these organizations would have been more useful. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

This story does not discuss additional ways to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, such as condom use and other safe sex practices.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story makes it clear that the CDC has not yet made a formal recommendation regarding male circumcision. The segment discussed the differing trends through the years of the use of circumcision. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story provides data indicating that circumcision is not a novel procedure in the U.S.  It also makes it clear that a recommendation from the CDC on circumcision would be uNPRecedented. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

There does not appear to be a press release associated with this story.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory


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