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PLoS One. 2007 Sep 12;2(9):e861.

Declining rates in male circumcision amidst increasing evidence of its public health benefit.

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Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.



Recent experimental evidence has demonstrated the benefits of male circumcision for the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Studies have also shown that male circumcision is cost-effective and reduces the risk for certain ulcerative sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The epidemiology of male circumcision in the United States is poorly studied and most prior reports were limited by self-reported measures. The study objective was to describe male circumcision trends among men attending the San Francisco municipal STD clinic, and to correlate the findings with HIV, syphilis and sexual orientation.


A cross sectional study was performed by reviewing all electronic records of males attending the San Francisco municipal STD clinic between 1996 and 2005. The prevalence of circumcision over time and by subpopulation such as race/ethnicity and sexual orientation were measured. The findings were further correlated with the presence of syphilis and HIV infection. Circumcision status was determined by physical examination and disease status by clinical evaluation with laboratory confirmation. Among 58,598 male patients, 32,613 (55.7%, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 55.2-56.1) were circumcised. Male circumcision varied significantly by decade of birth (increasing between 1920 and 1950 and declining overall since the 1960's), race/ethnicity (Black: 62.2%, 95% CI 61.2-63.2, White: 60.0%, 95% CI 59.46-60.5, Asian Pacific Islander: 48.2%, 46.9-49.5 95% CI, and Hispanic: 42.2%, 95% CI 41.3-43.1), and sexual orientation (gay/bisexual: 73.0%, 95% CI 72.6-73.4; heterosexual: 66.0%, 65.5-66.5). Male circumcision may have been modestly protective against syphilis in HIV-uninfected heterosexual men (PR 0.92, 95% C.I. 0.83-1.02, P = 0.06).


Male circumcision was common among men seeking STD services in San Francisco but has declined substantially in recent decades. Male circumcision rates differed by race/ethnicity and sexual orientation. Given recent studies suggesting the public health benefits of male circumcision, a reconsideration of national male circumcision policy is needed to respond to current trends.

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