Circumcision, or removing the foreskin of the penis, has always been controversial because attitudes towards it are rooted in religious and cultural attitudes. Some groups consider it hygienic; others see it as mutilation. If it is done in industrialized countries, it is usually done shortly after birth. By comparison, in traditional societies, it is done as a male rite of passage.
The World Health Organization recently reaffirmed that several scientific studies have shown that in SubSaharan Africa, circumcision could reduce the rate of HIV transmitted to men by HIV-infected women (penile:vaginal sex) by 50%. That is a major impact in a part of the world with a heavy burden of HIV.
Such a benefit is unlikely to be seen in a similar magnitude in the United States because the HIV-affected population and risk factors are not comparable. Indeed, no similar benefit to circumcision has been demonstrated with homosexual male to male anal sex. Further, some experts at the CDC believe that any strategy that has the potential to reduce HIV in high-risk populations, who tend to be less likely to undergo circumcision, should be encouraged.
There is also evidence that circumcision can prevent urinary tract infections in infants and boys. Right now, it is looking like the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics may "encourage" circumcision. The CDC has not officially spoken, but a movement is afoot to promote circumcision in newborns and high-risk men.
Endorsement by public health authorities and physician groups could translate into insurance coverage by Medicaid and private insurers. Medicaid in many states does not cover the procedure.
CDC HIV/AIDS Science Facts: Male circumcision and risk for HIV transmission and other conditions: implications for the United States. February 2008.