Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ethical reasoning

There is something about this story that is somewhat disturbing. (For those who don't follow links the story is about a test carried out in Johannesburg that finds circumcised men are 61% less likely to contract HIV.) Actually I tell a lie, there are several disturbing things about this story.

Firstly, who the hell dreamt up this study and what were they trying to prove. I mean what good can come from this research. We already knew that both those and without foreskins can develop HIV, so it's not going to be a cure. If, as they did, you find out that circumcised men are less likely to contract HIV then you're going to be putting out a mixed message to people about what's safe and what's not — after all most of us only read the headline. Somewhere like South Africa mixed messages about HIV, contraception, etc. are probably not good. And yes I'm looking at you Mr. Pope and your crazy bloody religion when I say that.

The second disturbing thing is what exactly did they tell the 3,274 uncircumcised volunteers, half of whom they circumcised. If somebody tells you that you are participating in a study to monitor HIV infection, surely you take extra care about where you putting your fella and what he's wearing at the time. Don't you? Were they told they were in this study? For that matter how the hell do you find 3,274 men aged 18-24 who are considering having their foreskins whipped off? I don't know anybody who'd consider it (and yes that is exactly the kind of conversation that I end up having — all the time).

Thirdly, what did they do when they stopped the study on ethical grounds? Did they circumcise the rest of the men? And did they stop the study too soon? Would the infection rate in the two groups eventually be the same (once the x percent who were regularly having unprotected sex with the skankiest women were all infected)?

Fourthly, circumcision: uggh! (I have trouble just looking at Rabbi knowing what crazy shit they practise.)

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