Circumcising the entire adult male population of Rwanda, a country of over 11 million people of which three percent is HIV positive, would seem an impossible – and rather painful – task to most. But Israeli technology is once again proving it can beat the odds, with a breakthrough medical device that allows performing the procedure on a mass scale, with no incisions, bleeding, or injected anesthesia.
Too good to be true? That’s not what the United Nations and the Rwandan government think. They have adopted the device, an Israeli invention by Circ MedTech Public Health Care Solutions, to commence the circumcision of 700,000 Rwandan men in order to combat HIV/AIDS.
According to UNAIDS, in 2011, 70 percent of all AIDS-related deaths in the world occurred in Africa. And one way to significantly reduce infection rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a procedure that is familiar to Jews and Muslims worldwide – circumcision.
“The PrePex is made of two rings and a special rubber strap,” Tzameret Fuerst, co-founder and president of Circ MedTech, which developed PrePex, told Israel’s Channel 2 News. “The rubber strap’s purpose is to cut circulation to the foreskin. So the foreskin decays and falls off within a week, then the device is removed and the procedure ends.”
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700,000 circumcisions over three years
Six years ago, the UN set a goal to circumcise 20 million Africans 14 nations by 2015. The goal is supposed to reduce infection rates by 20 percent and save $16.6 billion in future medical costs. But with only two years left, a mere 10 percent of that target has been achieved. The reason is the relatively high cost of circumcision, the need for a sterile environment and medical expertise – and the understandable reluctance of patients to undergo such a delicate procedure.
That is why PrePex seemed like an ideal solution, as it is cost-effective staring at $12 for apiece for a non-reusable device, can be carried out by lower-level medical professionals and nurses (a fact that is crucial in Rwanda, which has just over 300 doctors treating a population of over 11 million) and does not require the sterile environment of an operating room.
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“Circumcision is the most efficient tool to fight HIV/AIDS,” Rwanda Health Minister Doctor Agnes Binagwaho told the BBC, “when you are circumcised, you have 60 percent [less chance of being infected, as opposed] to somebody who is not circumcised when you have risky sex.”
Innovations that save lives
Tzameret Fuerst traveled to Rwanda to oversee the procedure herself. “I give [the patients] my hand and tell them: ‘Guys, it’s fine. Don’t worry, you’re doing something that will protect you for the rest of your life.’ And they walk out with a smile.,” she told Channel 2.
According to Circ MedTech, PrePex was developed in adherence with international standards set by the USA, the EU, the World Health Organization, African government officials, renowned physicians and public health officials worldwide. The device was cleared by the FDA for marketing in the USA.
“We are the startup nation, the world’s leading high-tech superpower,” Fuerst told Channel 2 News, “so when you add these aspects together, you say: ‘how can we create a startup that can also save lives?’ And this is our opportunity. This is the fertile ground that enabled such an invention.”
Fuerst adds: “I wish to encourage more entrepreneurs to think of inventions and innovations for the third world, in order to save lives.”
The photograph above is illustrative and does not imply the subjects have undergone circumcision.