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South Africa Runs Short of Condoms

October 5, 1999

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ Condom supplies in some parts of the country are running out, posing a serious threat to the government’s AIDS prevention program, AIDS workers said Tuesday.

Provincial health departments have been distributing free condoms to try to contain the pandemic, which the government estimates has infected 3.6 million South Africans in a population of 42 million, one of the world’s worst infection rates.

The AIDS Training and Information and Counseling Center in Cape Town said it was down to its last few hundred condoms, while the center in the Indian Ocean city of Durban said it had run out completely. Durban is in KwaZulu-Natal Province, the region worst-hit by AIDS, where one in four adults are infected by the AIDS virus in some areas.

Other centers also said their stocks were running low.

South Africa did not have a shortage of condoms, but there were bottlenecks in the distribution process, said Jeff Barnes, director of the Society for Family Health, which has acted as a consultant to the government on its condom procurement program.

``South Africa began batch-testing its condoms for the first time this year and no one knew how much time this was going to take,″ he said.

The South African Bureau of Standards is coordinating the testing and some government officials have accused it of holding up the process.

The bureau was not available for comment.

Morna Cornell of the AIDS Consortium said condom shortages were unacceptable.

``Condoms are the mainstay of our AIDS prevention program. We are supposed to have a strong focus on prevention, yet now there aren’t enough condoms,″ she said.

The government distributes more than 150 million condoms a year, which it receives from several different companies. Most of the country’s condoms come from Thailand.

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