Worries over 'dangerous' circumcisions

Durban - The Treatment Action Campaign has asked the Public Protector to investigate the procurement and ongoing use of a device used to perform medical male circumcisions in KwaZulu-Natal.

"The TAC's complaint was sent to the Public Protector on 2 August and we have received acknowledgement of receipt," TAC provincial chairperson Patrick Mdletshe said on Thursday.

The TAC has laid a complaint about the use of the Tara Klamp (TK) which is used to perform medical circumcisions on adolescent and adult men in the province.

"The TK is a dangerous device. It has specifically not been approved by the World Health Organisation because it failed in the only clinical trial conducted to test its safety," Mdletshe said.

The TK is a plastic device which is clamped over the foreskin of a man's penis for seven to 10 days until the foreskin falls off. Sometimes, the device has to be surgically removed.

The TAC said the TK was used only in KwaZulu-Natal, as all the other provinces had rejected it.

Using TK cost R120 more per circumcision than the standard surgical method, Mdletshe said.

A man who did not want to be named, and who was circumcised using the TK, said that before the procedure, his penis had not been measured when it was in an erect state.

"At about 03:00 in the morning, when I get my erection, it becomes very painful as my penis size increases," he said.

The TAC said it had expressed its concerns to the provincial government in 2010, but had said it would conduct its own investigation.

"In January 2012, we received a draft document outlining the research carried out. However the methodology of this research was so poor it provided no evidential value regarding the safety of the TK," Mdletshe said.

Trials of the TK on adults in Orange Farm showed that it was unsafe.

The trials revealed that there was a 32% infection rate using the TK compared to the zero percent when using the forceps guided method (FGM), which was the standard surgical method.

The complication rate when using the TK was 37% compared to 3% using the FGM.

According to the TAC, no tender had been published for the procurement of the TK.

"The TK was purchased from a supplier with links to government, rather than a competitor offering a low price," Mdletshe said.

The KwaZulu-Natal premier's spokesperson Ndabezinhle Sibiya said the government had held several meetings with the TAC on the issue.

"The premier, Zweli Mkhize, was engaging with its stakeholders including bodies from the health professional such as the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Medicine and Control Council.

"As government, we want to ensure the programme of circumcision is carried without endangering anyone," Sibiya said.

The government had circumcised more than 100 000 men and the process was overseen by qualified health profession, he said.

"Government will respond to the specifics of the TAC complaint in due time. We are committed to deal with the concerns raised by the TAC," Sibiya said.

A team led by health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo had been assembled to address the TAC’s concerns, he said.

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