Young men after a successful initiation ceremony in the Eastern Cape. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH
Young men after a successful initiation ceremony in the Eastern Cape. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH

THE Department of Health has put on hold its plan to introduce an Israeli-made circumcision device in the face of pressure from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and its affiliates.

More than a year after introducing PrePex, during the sixth South African AIDS Conference in Durban, the department was no closer to taking a decision on whether to use it, said spokesman Joe Maila, on Sunday.

Prepex, a nonsurgical circumcising device developed in Israel, was given the green light by the World Health Organisation last year.

At the time of its introduction, the department said PrePex was safe to use and could replace the controversial Malaysian-made TaraClamp device. Unlike TaraClamp, PrePex uses a ring design to remove the foreskin.

More than a year later, in the face of Cosatu threats that it would tell its members — many of whom are nurses — to refuse to use the device, the department is no closer to bringing it into use, although it denied on Sunday that the delay was because of pressure from Cosatu.

Thobile Mbengashe, the department’s chief director of HIV/AIDS, made an appeal at the HIV/AIDS conference held in June last year for Cosatu to reconsider its stance and "leave politics out of critical health issues".

"We know what it can and cannot do, but we have not come to any conclusion on it yet," Mr Maila said.

"We are under no pressure from anyone, but I can’t say when we will take that decision. When we do take that decision we will tell the nation about that decision and why we took it."

National Education Health and Allied Workers Union spokesman Sizwe Pamla said on Sunday his union would not allow any Israeli product to be used in the public health system. "We have told the African National Congress and the government that our position is clear and unambiguous when it comes to Israel.

"We boycott everything and every product that comes from that pariah and apartheid state (of Israel)."