‘Pain-free’ circumcision device to be tested in SA

2013-06-18 14:47

A new medical male circumcision device, which could be a pain-free alternative to surgical circumcision, is about to be piloted in South Africa.

The device “can be used by any person as long as they have been properly trained to use it”, said Dr Ntlotleng Mabena, technical advisor of the Centre for HIV and Aids Prevention.

The centre will be conducting the pilot studies in conjunction with the department of health.

Mabena explained surgical circumcision could only be performed by doctors and clinical associates because of the risk of complications. And with the limited number of doctors in our country, she said, “we haven’t been circumcising as many people as we wanted to”.

When medical male circumcision was introduced in South Africa in 2010 as part of the HIV prevention package, government set itself a target of circumcising more than four million males by 2016. So far just over a million boys and men have been circumcised.

Speaking on the sidelines of the sixth South African Aids conference in Durban today, Dr Thobile Mbengashe, chief director of the HIV and Aids and STI unit in the department of health, said the new device might help to push up the numbers and enable them to reach their target.

He, however, cautioned the device will not replace surgical circumcision. “We need both of these procedures,” he said.

The device, known as PrePex, will be piloted in four provinces – Gauteng, North West, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga – in the next few months.

Mbengashe said ethical approval had been obtained.

“All we need now is a date of when we are supposed to begin with the studies,” he said.

The PrePex device has three parts – the placement ring, inner ring and elastic ring. It is worn on the penis for seven days.

The placement ring is placed over the penis. The inner ring is then inserted between the penis and the foreskin before the elastic ring is placed over it.

The elastic ring compresses the foreskin, cutting off its blood supply, resulting in the skin dying. After seven days the device is removed and the dead skin is cut off.

Mbengashe stressed the safety and efficacy of the device had been tested in two separate studies in Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

“People should not worry about whether the device is safe or not because we know it is safe to use.”

Mabena shared the same sentiments.

She elaborated: “Safety and efficacy has been proven and our studies will move beyond that.”

The pilot studies will assess whether this device is suited to the South African context, what messages should be communicated to communities and how much time is needed for the wound to heal.

According to Mabena, a wound that results from surgical circumcision takes about eight weeks to heal.

“But previous studies on PrePex showed that it might take two additional weeks for the wound to heal,” she said.

But Mbena said there were more benefits to using PrePex.

These include:

» It’s pain free;

» It can be applied by nurses;

» There is no need for local anaesthetic before the procedure is done;

» There is no bleeding during the insertion of the ring; and

» Those who use it can return to work on the same day.

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