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AFRICA: Condoms - the hole truth

Photo: MedAPT/Flickr
Faulty condoms
Nairobi, 10 September 2009 (PlusNews) - Having a condom split during sex is not much fun, but the idea that millions of condoms may be faulty before they are opened is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Huge quantities of condoms are imported into Africa as part of national prevention campaigns, but over the years several brands have been found to be faulty, hampering prevention efforts and highlighting the need for better quality control.

TANZANIA - In May 2002 the government blocked a shipment of 10 million condoms imported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for nationwide free distribution after a US laboratory confirmed defects in samples submitted for testing.

UGANDA - In 2004 consumers complained that a widely used government-subsidised brand of condoms, 'Engabu' (meaning shield in some local languages), had a "bad odour". Tests by the National Drug Authority showed that the condoms did not meet safety standards and recalled them, causing a scandal and a national condom shortage.

All condoms imported into Uganda have since had to undergo thorough pre- and post-shipment quality testing. Although the government relaunched the Engabu brand in 2006, it was received with scepticism and in 2007 the National Medical Stores announced that 40 million Engabu condoms were likely to expire in stores because of low demand.

SOUTH AFRICA - In 2007 the health department recalled 20 million government condoms after media reports alleged that Sphiwe Fikizolo, a testing manager at the South African Bureau of Standards, responsible for quality testing all locally produced condoms, had accepted money from the manufacturer in return for certifying defective condoms.

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The government embarked on a public awareness campaign to restore public confidence in the brand, but experts said the scandal was a setback to the national prevention campaign.

ZAMBIA - In August 2009 the Zambia Bureau of Standards halted the sale of two brands of condoms - Hot and Evolution - after they failed to pass the electronic freedom-from-holes test.

KENYA - In September 2009 a local television station aired footage showing that locally stocked brands of condoms had failed the electronic freedom-from-holes test, and several spouted leaks when filled with water.

The government said it was testing all imported brands of condoms; officials assured the public that 75 percent of condoms used in Kenya were government brands and met quality standards set by the UN World Health Organization.

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Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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