The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently approved the PrePex™ device for male circumcision. The PrePex™ is the first non-surgical instrument to receive prequalification status from the WHO, meaning that the device and the manufacturer meet international standards for efficacy and safety, similar to the FDA regulatory processes.
The WHO suggested that the PrePex™ has the potential to make male circumcision safer, easier, quicker, and more culturally acceptable, and will allow various levels of trained health workers, not merely surgeons, perform circumcisions.
The device utilizes a rubber band which cuts off the blood supply to the foreskin, allowing it to die and either fall off or be removed painlessly. The circumcision can be administered by two nurses in just four minutes, and the foreskin can be removed one week later.
Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMCC) has become a key prevention mechanism in the fight against HIV/AIDS, as it can decrease a heterosexual male’s risk of infection by nearly 60%. While this phenomenon is still being studied, it appears that the removal of the foreskin significantly decreases the quantity and diversity of bacteria on the head of the penis. This bacteria and other organisms harbored on the foreskin, including T-Cells and Langerhans’ cells, serve as receptors for the HIV and other viruses. Additionally, the presence of the foreskin increases the likelihood of tears or genital ulcers, which also serve as entry points for the virus.
Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator has stated that the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is “ready to support countries that wish to introduce PrePex™ right away,” and that the device will “truly help save lives.”
Since 2007, PEPFAR has funded over 2 million male circumcisions in 14 countries in East and South Africa and the World Health Organization aims to perform 20 million by 2015. This is projected to save 3.4 million lives and $16.5 billion in treatment expenses.