SOUTH AFRICA: "I'm in danger" - public responds to condom scandal

Monday, September 3, 2007

The recall of 20 million condoms by the South African Health Department due to safety concerns has dealt a blow to the country's prevention programme.

An estimated seven million condoms have been compromised by a corruption scandal in which faulty condoms were allegedly certified as safe; the government chose to recall all 20 million prophylactics produced by the company under investigation.

Health department spokesperson Sibani Mngadi maintained that 90 percent of the 400 million condoms the government distributes for free each year were of good quality.

But activists worry that the news of the recall has dented public confidence in the health department's long-fought condomisation campaign, in a country in which over 16 percent of adults are estimated to be HIV-positive.

Those concerns were shared by people IRIN/PlusNews spoke to in one of Johannesburg's busy shopping malls.

"I don’t like the government condoms. I don't think they're safe. I'd rather buy condoms from the garage than get them from the clinic, I just don't think they're safe." Cindy Ndlebe, 21, personal trainer

"I used to use them all the time due to the fact I thought they were stronger because they were free. I mean, I'd been using them for three years and only two broke. No more. I was using them because they were easy to access, they're always there." Mapitso Hlaodi, 27, hairstylist

"I saw it in the paper Monday or Tuesday and said, 'Oh my God, let me check my condom.' And my condom was Choice [the affected brand] and it means I'm in danger, but I just continue because I have no choice. I've been using them for years." Monty Mawele, 47, security guard

"I don’t think the government has a response. I don't think the government actually knows what it wants to do or what its story is with the whole HIV/AIDS issue." Natashe Thorp, 22, student

"I think the government is right, it's good for the people. One thing for sure, the government cares for the people." Gift Ndlovu, 25, waiter

Source: PlusNews