Good Riddance to PrePex and Circ MedTech

I’ve written numerous times about PrePex in the past decade. (See: here, here, here, here, and here.) Generally the context involved an advertisement masquerading as journalism, with the source’s reliance on PrePex’s claim that it was non-surgical. As I said in my first post, the ability to limit bleeding does not mean it is non-surgical. Foreskin removal is surgical. Facts weren’t refuted just because the device’s manufacturer said so. “Non-surgical” was always a useful lie.

Now we know the truth.

… After beginning with great success in Africa, a series of events finally led to the company’s closure recently – after 10 years of operations. TheMarker has investigated what happened, using documents and interviews with people from the company, and has discovered that the PrePex device, which was meant to help prevent AIDS, was linked to a number of cases of death from tetanus in Africa.

Removing body parts isn’t risk-free. This shows the tendency of public health campaigners to sell lofty dreams without emphasizing risks and costs. “With this one special action, you can improve your life!” If there’s a “do not taunt Happy Fun Ball” disclaimer, it’s in small print. The effort is to close the sale, not to educate in order to let someone make an informed decision.

… Published studies showed very high levels of satisfaction from those who used it, with the exception of very specific complaints – such as a bad smell from the area of the penis while the device was being used.

Then it turned out that a number of other cases of tetanus has occurred. According to documents Circ MedTech submitted to the WHO in 2016, a total of six cases of tetanus were reported by PrePex patients in Rwanda and Uganda from 2014 through 2016 (including the three already mentioned above). The symptoms began to appear 10 to 13 days after the beginning of the use of the device. Four of these patients, ages 18 to 34, died.

That tetanus risk is significantly higher in Africa was ignored, which is essentially the approach with any confounding factor in the HIV epidemic, as well. “BUT CIRCUMCISION!” And here we are.

Of course, it’s critical to ask if the six patients in the excerpt were informed of this risk. Or that tetanus is mentioned at all in the public health push, since the article states it’s been reported from “surgical” circumcisions in Africa, too. Or that death was a risk, whether from PrePex os “surgical circumcision”, again, as the article reports happened from the push for male circumcision. But at least they won’t get HIV?

The company’s website is still available, despite the company ceasing operations. In a non-shocking discovery, I see that, like the New York Times in its initial advertisement-posted-as-news (see above), Circ MedTech linked to CIRCLIST as a “useful” source of information (along with Brian Morris’ nonsense). This link existed from at least September 6, 2014, according to Internet Archive. At the same time, CIRCLIST included a few fascinating pieces for consideration. These include information on FGC/M (NSFW), in which the distinction is “modifies the female genitalia in ways likely to be accepted by a neutral observer as [enhancing/reducing] the quality of a woman’s sexual experience”. Is there any concern¹ for consent?

CIRCLIST also contained a section on “Women’s Preferences and Experiences” of male circumcision, including a submission from Alexis (Canada) described as “a mother decides to re-circumcise her sons”. The story:

After reading about re-circumcision on the CIRCLIST website I decided to have my two sons re-circumcised. I was never happy with the loose skin that was left over by the doctor at birth. (The same Doctor did both boys). So I arranged it with a urologist and my sons, age 10 and 14 at the time, now have beautifully tight circumcisions. There is absolutely no movement of shaft skin towards the head of their penises, which I just adore and reckon that their future lovers and wives will adore it too and thank me for having it done. Now that the heads of their penises are fully exposed and permanently bared, I can personally say that the appearance is much sexier to look at and cleaner as well. I also encourage my boys to appreciate the look of their newly remodeled penises and to not be shy around girls because, when those girls get a look at their super tight circumcisions they will just go crazy for them.

Obviously there’s no way for the reader to know if Alexis is a real person or that her ode to pedophilia actually occurred. (It seems to have been disappeared from CIRCLIST sometime in 2015.) But publishing it was informative as to both the motive of CIRCLIST and its editors’ standard for what’s reasonable to do to children. And Circ MedTech linked the site as “useful”.

¹ That’s rhetorical, as consent is rarely considered within the pages of CIRCLIST.

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