A device has been developed to facilitate non-surgical circumcisions in adult males which experts say could have a revolutionary impact on cutting the spread of HIV, according to a report in GOOD. PrePex, the tool from Circ MedTech which requires no injected anesthesia, is being regarded as a way to fight AIDS in Africa.
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A 2007 study from the World Health Organization found that male circumcision can reduce the HIV infection rate from women to men by about 60 percent. The report concluded that if 80 percent of males in 14 countries were circumcised by 2015, the effort would result in 4 million less HIV infections at a savings of $20 billion. Since countries in Africa have high infection rates and low levels of circumcisions, organizations such as WHO and UNAIDS prioritized populations in that region.
However, the success rate has been low with only 5 percent of WHO’s goal reached in Kenya. Several factors have made it difficult including there being few qualified surgeons, governments like Uganda’s not being on board, and men not willing to go through with the surgery.
But Circ MedTech’s CEO Tzameret Fuerst says PrePex could change all that. The device has three rings that are placed on the genitals to stop the flow of blood to the foreskin. The procedure can be administered by nurses, takes about a minute and is painless. After one week, the skin becomes “like fingernails” and can be removed with blunt, safe scissors.
Fuerst compares the difference between conventional circumcision and what the procedure’s like using PrePex.
“One message is come get circumcised—the procedure entails injected anesthesia, bleeding, a surgical procedure and post-healing time,” she says, “versus telling a man: ‘You’re going to go through something that is virtually painless, there’s no blood, there are no needles, and you can go back to work.’ Now think of the impact on uptake.”
The innovation is patent pending and no country has bought the device yet. (The device is not for sale in the US.) Rwanda has approved it after clinical trials and its health minister Anges Binagwaho has written in the Washington Post that it can be a great thing for her country. And Zimbabwe has begun testing.
Still, PrePex is just one method. HIV prevention counseling has to go hand-in-hand with any effort to fight the disease.
Do you think African countries should give PrePex a chance?