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Preventing The Spread Of HIV With One Simple Gadget

Preventing The Spread Of HIV With One Simple Gadget

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS cited that Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision can reduce the risk of HIV infection by approximately 60 percent in high risk areas such as Sub Saharan Africa. So to save millions of lives and billions of dollars in long-term HIV/AIDS healthcare costs, UNAIDS is leading a campaign that involves the circumcision of 27 million men.

But how do you get million so men to willingly opt into such a personal and potentially dangerous procedure? You invent a device that makes it easy, painless and cheap, that’s how. Enter a startup called Circ MedTech.

Telling the story of how it came to be at Cannes Lions festival in France last week, Circ MedTech showed off its non-surgical male circumcision device Prepex, a device that is helping to reduce the number of HIV contractions across Africa. The firm’s Director of Marketing, Adi Kadussi, joined the Health in Action stage to explain how the device works and the impact it has had already.

Kadussi explained how male circumcision is chosen as one of the best investments in global health because it substantially prevents the risk of spreading HIV for those having sex without contraception, making it one of the most sustainable development holes across 14 priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

“But there’s little chance that Africa can scale up programs and that’s where we come into the picture,” she said. “We had to think outside the box, and so we developed a new procedure using PrePex, the only non-surgical device, designed for adult men in Africa. It’s safe simple, scalable, cost effective and not painful for the end user.”

Making every crossed-legged man in the room wince with discomfort, Kadussi demonstrated how the device works using her two fingers. The simple piece of apparatus consists of two rings that sit between either side of the foreskin were they are left for a week to restrict the blood flow. After this time, the male will then go to a surgery and it’s simply cut off.

Verified as safe by WHO, the procedure takes just five minutes to complete and contains no surgery, no stitches, no recovery time, it’s simple to teach, set up and perform, and thus reduces burden on African health care assistants. It also doesn’t need running water or electricity to work so saves hospitals on energy costs. And because it causes minimal discomfort for patients, it means they can return to work right after the procedure.

However, male circumcision is not typical practice across Africa, so it was important for Circ MedTech to address misconceptions in these countries by educating men about it and why its beneficial.

Verified as safe by WHO, the procedure takes just five minutes to complete and contains no surgery, no stitches, no recovery time, it’s simple to teach, set up and perform, and thus reduces burden on African health care assistants. It also doesn’t need running water or electricity to work so saves hospitals on energy costs. And because it causes minimal discomfort for patients, it means they can return to work right after the procedure.

However, male circumcision is not typical practice across Africa, so it was important for Circ MedTech to address misconceptions in these countries by educating men about it and why its beneficial.

“This was a big marketing challenge,” Kadussi said. “There are 27 million men in Africa that speak dozen of different languages, spread across different rural areas and don’t have access to social media.”

The organisation found that the most simple and successful tool is word of mouth, which flourished due to device’s unique features. Bill Gates also got behind it, which paved the way for Gates Foundation to help make a difference across Africa.

“Word of mouth about the device and the painless procedure spread, and people started lining up outside clinics in Ruanda, which no one ever expected,” she added.

Prepex has had quite the impact on preventing the spread of HIV so far.

“We’ve delivered more than one million devices for countries in Africa, which according to statistical models, means 150 million HIV cases have been diverted, meaning more money can be shifted from potential HIV cases to other spaces,” Kadussi explained.

She admits there is still work to be done as despite its success, the Circ MedTech team is hitting hurdles all the time.

“But smart design and a creative campaign together with marketing presentation that meet clients’ needs is definitely a good tool for a successful campaign.”

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