WHO eyes circumcision devices to slow spread of HIV

Circ MedTech's PrePex is a non-surgical circumcision device--courtesy of Circ Medtech

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), circumcision can reduce men's risk of contracting HIV by up to 60%, and two non-surgical circumcision devices are undergoing trials to get the organization's approval. The end goal: slashing the rates of HIV transmission in Africa.

PrePex, from Israel's Circ MedTech, and Shang Ring, made by China's Wu Hu, are non-invasive devices that can perform circumcisions without the need for surgery. Instead, the techs emulate an umbilical cord clamp, using an elastic band to cut off blood supply to the foreskin, causing the excess skin to dry out, Africa's Mail & Guardian reports. From there, the foreskin can be removed easily without the need for anesthesia, stitches or a sterile environment. The entire process takes about one-fifth the time of surgical circumcision, and, in trials, patients were able to return to work hours after completing it.

However, Circ and MedTech will need to navigate the WHO's multi-step approval process before they can expect to move large quantities of the devices, as big-time donors--like the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation--will only support devices that have the organization's stamp of approval, according to the Mail & Guardian. That means conducting three WHO-approved trials in three countries. PrePex is currently undergoing its second round of trials in Zimbabwe, and the Shang Ring is in the midst of its first in Kenya and Zambia.

The WHO has set a goal of circumcising 80% of men in 14 African countries, and the two non-surgical devices could help the organization get there. Doing so could avert 20% of new HIV infections by 2025, the WHO estimates, and that could save about $16.6 billion in medical costs, the Mail & Guardian reports.

- read the Mail & Guardian story