Israeli Invention To Fight AIDS Wins Coveted Tech Prize

tech-awardsLife-saving circumcision procedure, already used by 100,000 men in developing countries, makes the cut at this year’s ‘Oscars of Silicon Valley’

If you want to make a man feel really uncomfortable, talk to him about circumcising his penis. I should know, I do it every day,” declares a smiling Sabelo Dlamini in the opening of a film shown at this month’s Tech Awards 2015 honoring winner PrePex, an Israeli-developed nonsurgical method of circumcision.

Developed by Israeli anti-AIDS group Circ MedTech Ltd., PrePex is a circumcision ring that has been shown to reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV by nearly 60 percent.

The simple device – two plastic rings and an elastic band – cuts off blood supply to the foreskin, which then shrivels and is removed with the band after a week.

“There’s no blood, no stitches, no injection, very little or no pain, and it’s absolutely free…. You can trust me, my brother, I’ve done it myself,” Sabelo can be seen saying as he tries to persuade Johannesburg’s men to consider the procedure.

The makers of PrePex boast that a man “can resume work and almost all daily activities shortly after the procedure,” with the device “designed to be placed, worn, and removed with minimal disruption,” though they should abstain from sex for six weeks afterwards.

The Tech Awards — presented by Applied Materials — are considered “the Oscars of Silicon Valley” and celebrate those using technology to address global challenges. Each year there are two winners of the Sutter Health award honoring individuals, nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies that use new or existing technology to improve health conditions around the world.

The award comes with a $50,000 cash prize that Circ MedTech CEO Eddie Horowitz said would be donated to HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa.

Speaking at the ceremony, Horowitz said he was “honored and humbled” to be accepting the award on behalf of the Israeli company.

“I want to thank our partners, the courageous government leaders and NGOs in Africa, our shareholders and last but not least, the loyal and passionate PrePex team. I would like to thank the over 100,000 men who have chosen PrePex,” he said.

PrePex has been used in over 100,000 procedures in 12 countries in Africa and Asia.

Officials say PrePex has the ability to decrease the number of deaths and injuries caused by unsafe circumcision practices. It was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and certified by the European Union in 2012, and endorsed by the World Health Organization last year.

WHO and the United Nations Aids Program push circumcision as an additional prevention measure in high-prevalence countries where HIV transmission is predominantly heterosexual.

The WHO says there is “compelling evidence” circumcision reduces risk of heterosexually-acquired HIV infection in men. The organization has “prequalified” PrePex, meaning the device has been assessed and meets international standards for efficacy and safety.

Scientists have found that male circumcision can significantly reduce the chances of HIV infection because the foreskin has a higher concentration of HIV-receptors than the rest of the penis and is prone to tears during intercourse, providing HIV an entry point.