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Mpumalanga-based journalists discovered a new circumcision device, called PrePex, at a Bhekisisa media training event on Monday. (Mercedes Sayagues)

Bhekisisa on the cutting edge in Mpumalanga

Mercedes Sayagues
Mpumalanga-based journalists discovered a new circumcision device, called PrePex, at a Bhekisisa media training event on Monday.

"I learned about a simple and safe method of male circumcision. This is very important because the traditional method is very painful. I speak from experience," said Sfiso Mahlangu, Radio Greater Middleburg. 

He was one of 13 journalists from community radio stations and newspapers in Mpumalanga, who attended a media training of the M&G's health journalism centre, Bhekisisa, this week. Reporters learned about one of the latest developments in medical male circumcision in South Africa: the PrePex device.

With PrePex, medical male circumcision avoids anaesthetics, cutting, stitches and bleeding.  Prequalified as safe and effective by the World Health Organisation, and already adopted by Rwanda, PrePex was tried by 318 men in eMalahleni and Johannesburg, in a study conducted by the Perinatal HIV Research Unit of the University of the Witwatersrand.

Studies have shown that medical male circumcision – the complete removal of the foreskin's penis – can reduce a heterosexual man's chances of contracting HIV by 60% through sex.  According to Cecilia Mohlala, at Ziwaphi newspaper in Nelspruit, "PrePex will make for an interesting story and good debate" to her readers.

Lisa Matsie from Bushbuckridge radio said the workshop was "very useful and I can't wait to start with my programmes on it". 

Roll out PrePex nationwide 
The health department plans to roll out PrePex nationwide after two larger studies are completed by mid-2015, according to Dayanund Loykisoonlal, the programme manager for medical male circumcision at the National Department of Health, and one of the presenters at the briefing.

Other presenters included Dr Dirk Taljaard, of the Centre for HIV and Aids Prevention Studies and lead researcher at the ground-breaking Orange Farm trials that confirmed that medical male circumcision reduces HIV transmission. 

Dr Limakatso Lebina, of Chris Hani Baragwanath's perinatal HIV Research Unit, who conducted the PrePex studies, shared the findings. Of the 318 men who tried PrePex, seven out of 10 felt no pain during its placement, and eight out of 10 support its introduction in South Africa. Bhekisisa organised the briefing in collaboration with the  Community Media Trust, with funding from the Centres for Disease Control.

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