The campaign against Aids in South Africa has suffered several blows in recent years – from confusion about whether Aids is a virus or a syndrome to the infamous post-coital anti-Aids shower and by way of several job lots of dodgy condoms – which are key to the fight against the spread of the virus.
Ordinary South Africans, already confused about the difference between lemon ‘n herb flavoured cures and actual antiretroviral medication, have had their faith in the government-issued Choice prophylactics undermined by the second recall of defective condoms in as many months and the third in recent memory.
In 1999, the health department inadvertently stapled holes in condoms while nobly attempting to attach user instruction pamphlets. Then, in August this year, 20-million condoms (supplied by one of the health department’s seven condom suppliers – Zalatex) were recalled after it was found that an official from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) was bribed to approve condoms that didn’t meet safety standards.
The most recent hiccup came after condoms supplied by Kohrs Medical failed to pass the SABS air-burst tests. One million of these are already under quarantine, the other four million are in distribution.
While health department spokesperson Sibane Mngadi is quoted as saying that the five other condom supply companies will be able to meet demand, the real question is whether the public will trust the department’s assurances that each ijazi lomkhwenyane is sound.
Robert Machiri (29)
“If this was caused by human error, there is nothing we can do about it.
“People make mistakes. But if this was caused by negligence, I have no sympathy for them. This mistake is costing lives.”
Cleopatra Lesetedi (28)
“I used them before the scandal and everything was normal, but after the scandal broke, I buy Trust condoms.
“Other people cannot afford to buy condoms so it’s really bad. I think the government is rich. They must pay people who sue them.”
Zweli Shabalala (36)
“I am very angry. We used these condoms. Maybe we are HIV-positive now. This is completely unacceptable. Government did not do their job properly.”
Filip VvÃ®etic (19)
“This scandal will definitely affect us in the long run and nothing can be done about it. Even if people sue the government, they would not be able to prove it.”
Allan Awlym (76)
“This is the kind of thing we expect from government. We are totally disillusioned after the promises made in ’94 were not kept. We love this country, but fear for it.”
Catherine Monareng (28)
“I didn’t think much about this issue when I first read about it, but now as I think about it, the government was irresponsible.
“How did the condoms get out without being tested and without being up to standard? I have never used government condoms. I always buy them, but what if someone takes a pin and pricks a condom and then I take it and use it? I just do not trust government condoms, even before this happened.”
Joey Elphick (53)
“I think its disgusting that the defective condoms have hurt the people we are trying to protect from HIV/Aids and sexually transmitted infections. You take any court action and it takes five years before anything happens. These people do not have four to five years.”
Additional reporting by Nosimilo Ndlovu and Surika van Schalkwyk