Chanukah is upon us, and one of the crazy facts that often gets overlooked in childhood versions of the story, is about epispasm. Those Jews that started wearing those red bracelets, I mean togas, and doing other Hellenistic stuff, wanted to go even further, and undo their bris. If your member was not wearing a hat, it precluded you from lots of naked activities, like the Olympics.

Today, as the anti-circ movement is beating down the doors, claiming circ is barbaric, the NY Times comes out with a convincing article showing why being foreskinless is a good idea.

Circumcision appears to reduce a man’s risk of contracting AIDS from heterosexual sex by half, United States government health officials said yesterday, and the directors of the two largest funds for fighting the disease said they would consider paying for circumcisions in high-risk countries.

So men in Africa, the place where there is the greatest risk of heterosexual transfer of the AIDS virus, the price of a bris has fallen to records lows. And not only does it help stem the spread of AIDS, but it helps stop some forms of cancer in women.

Earlier studies on Western men have shown that circumcision significantly reduces the rate at which men infect women with the virus that causes cervical cancer. A study published in 2002 in The New England Journal of Medicine found that uncircumcised men were about three times as likely as circumcised ones with a similar number of sexual partners to carry the human papillomavirus.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah


  • It’s not sure if the Jewish type of circumcision would also have these benefits – the theory is that the foreskin’s delicate inner layer of skin is the entry point for the virus, and Jewish bris preserves that skin (which is sexually responsive).

    It’s likely that the African doctors are doing hospital-style circumcisions, which remove both layers of (fore)skin.

  • It would take 56 circumcisions to prevent one HIV transmission per year in Uganda, 380 in the US (other things being equal). The time expertise and money would be better spent promoting condoms and safer sex education, treating ulcerative diseases and preventing malaria.

    The study that claimed to show a connection with circumcision and Human Papilloma Virus found almost all of its circumcised men in the Philippines, the others in other countries. Any of a number of differences between countries could be responsible.