Thursday, December 15, 2011

CIRCUMCISION: The Washington Post Folds to the PrePex Ad Campaign

On my last post, I talked about how the BBC basically ran a paid ad for the PrePex circumcision device using claims based on dubious studies, as well as unfounded myth, and the conflict of interest of the CEO of the company who markets PrePex. Upon further inspection, one can see that the video was not only a paid ad by PrePex, it is a clip of the show "The Health Show," which is sponsored by none other than Bill Gates. (One can see this in the caption under the video.)

The plot thickens.

On my last post, other readers have commented that they are unable to see the video hosted by the BBC. According to my comments, Brits get a message that the video is not visible in their area, this despite the fact that they are IN the UK, and they all pay a license fee. It sounds like PrePex and Bill Gates had a target audience in mind, and they're using technicalities to keep Brits from seeing the content. Could it be that they know Brits, who are for the most part intact, would call bullshit and protest?

Now, it seems, PrePex and Circumcision Inc. are trying to expand their business, and are having news outlets run paid ads that masquerade as "news" for them. A few days ago, the Washington Post ran an article that's basically another paid ad for circumcision and the PrePex device. This time, instead of being pushed by the PrePex CEO, the ad came in the form of an article by Agnes Binagwaho, the Minister of Health of the Republic of Rwanda, who appeared on the BBC video promoting circumcision. Apparently she's a recipient of an honorary PhD in sciences from Dartmouth University" for her "lifetime achievement in treating and preventing AIDS." (Which means she isn't even a real PhD.)

Agnes Binagwaho ought to be ashamed of herself. On the "The Health Show" clip hosted by the BBC, she spouts off how "circumcision reduces the risk of HIV transmission by 60%" as if it were matter of fact. How does she know this? Who exactly is she to be making this value judgment? An "honorary PhD?" Is Dartmouth University CRAZY? Did she get this because she's so interested in preventing AIDS? Or did she get this because she agreed to push circumcision?

Here she is on Washington Post, and earlier on the BBC seeking acquiescence to the dubious claim that circumcision "reduces the risk of HIV by 60%," by peddling a device that is supposed to make circumcision "easier and faster." You'd think this were a paid informercial.

Actually, I think this is precisely what this is.

On the BBC, Binagwaho is accompanied by Tzameret Fuerst, CEO of the company that sells the PrePex device (who also happens to be the wife of the inventor of the device). Conflict of interest much? It doesn't help much that video on the BBC is a clip from "The Health Show," who also just happens to be funded by Bill Gates, circumcision promoter extraordinaire.

There is not a doubt in my mind that if we look behind who's behind this paid ad we'll find the same people. I'd bet that if we were to check out this woman's paychecks, they'd all be signed by Med CircTech, Bill Gates, PEPFAR etc.

I don't trust this woman further than I can throw her. She is a paid puppet and she has absolutely no idea what she's talking about. Is this woman not aware that, according to a demographic health survey taken in 2005,  the ratio of circumcised vs. intact men who contracted HIV was 3.8 vs 2.1. in her own country? According to a 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, rates of HIV among adults in Washington, D.C. exceed 1 in 30; rates higher than those reported in Rwanda. (In America, 80% of the male population is circumcised from birth.) It is disconcerting that the Health Minister is either not aware of the facts, or she is deliberately ignoring them.

If circumcision is so effective at preventing HIV, why isn't this effect evident in other countries that circumcise? According to USAID, HIV transmission was higher among circumcised men in 10 out of 18 countries. Why are HIV transmission rates higher in America, where 80% of the men are circumcised from birth, than in Europe, where circumcision is rare?

This is nothing but a paid advertisement for Med CircTech, who is trying to ride the circumcision/HIV gravy train. This woman is no real authority on epidemiology, surgery, urology or even pediatrics. The Washington Post should be ashamed for agreeing to publish this disgusting rubbish infomercial that isn't even fit for television. SHAME on you Agnes Binagwaho, you are a sellout to your own country. SHAME on you, Washington Post, you are a sellout to decent journalism.


  1. Thank you for another great commentary! The Washington Post needs to be reprimanded.

  2. Prepex wants its money, I wish that I could con money out of Bill Gates like the creationists and circumfetishists do.

  3. Violent people are always in the wrong. However, in the eternal words of Chris Rock: "but I understand!" Think about that.

  4. Have you any idea how much the equipment sells for, given that it's just a couple of bits of plastic and an elastic band? They keep talking about cost effectiveness but how much is being shelled out per head in the attempt to circumcise 2 million Rwandans, say?