Let me give you some background. My family and I were having a discussion on the pros and cons of circumcision and I brought it up as a pro. They then proceeded to tell me I’m wrong (I quote “No, you’re wrong, you made that up”) and that circumcision makes absolutely zero difference in terms of…
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with discussing the potential benefits of circumcision from a scientific point of view, so it’s a shame that you caught flak for it. You didn’t discuss circumcision of children specifically (as opposed to voluntary adult circumcision), which is where the topic becomes controversial. It’s also slightly curious to encounter a family where an older generation opposes the practice more than the younger, since it’s usually the other way around.
The issue that I have with researching circumcision in hopes of finding health benefits is that it’s happening within a problematic cultural context. I don’t think we, as a society, relate to circumcision in a rational way. I think we’d rather continue circumcising for very subjective reasons, and that we’re only too happy to look for additional justifications. An example that I have to offer to illustrate this view is a hypothetical situation where a parent is offered an unspecified pediatric surgery with the same theoretical HIV prevention benefits as circumcision. I feel that the overwhelming majority of parents would defer the surgery because of concerns over surgical trauma and risks, and the reality that their child isn’t yet at risk for STIs. “We’ll take a rain check,” or “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” are the type of response that I would expect to see.
On a concrete level, I doubt that the potential benefit of partial HIV immunity justifies the risks and cons of circumcising children in places like the United States. Just as you said, biomedical advances offers us a constantly improving knowledge of health and sexuality, which includes the damage and harm caused by circumcision. In 1996 we learned about the high degree of innervation and specialization within the tissue destroyed by circumcision. In 2007 we found out about the extent of relative sensitivity loss attributed to circumcision. Last year we learned more about the subjective negative impact on the sex lives of circumcised males and their partners. As you’re probably aware, there is also growing ethical concerns within medical and legal communities, as well as among the general public. On the flip side, the limited HIV protection offered by circumcision present diminishing benefits to children (in a population such as the United States’) who won’t be at risk for another ~15 years.