South African health department recalls 1.5 million condoms

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File this under "terrifying": the South African health department has recalled 1.5 million "faulty" condoms that were handed out at the African National Congress' centennial celebration, health officials said Tuesday. The recall was issued after the Treatment Action Campaign, the leading anti-AIDS organization in South Africa, informed the department that people reported the condoms bursting or leaking while they were having sex.

The condoms were distributed a few weeks ago at the African National Congress' centennial celebration in Bloemfontein, where tens of thousands of visitors from across the world had flocked to partake in the festivities. While a spokesman for the health department assured South Africans not to panic about the recall, he was unable to provide an estimate of how many condoms had been used or since recovered, and Treatment Action Campaign spokesperson Sello Mokhalipi says a recall is not enough. "We want the department to go out and tell people about these faulty condoms," he says. "How can they say people should not panic if there are still clearly people out there in possession of these condoms?"

With an estimated 5.6 million South Africans infected with the AIDS virus, South Africa has the highest percentage of AIDS patients in the world, and the government has faced intense criticism in the past for its failure to sufficiently address the epidemic. On top of that, this latest incident marks the third time in less than five years that the government has recalled defective condoms. There are reports that members of the South African Bureau of Standards have accepted bribes to certify government-distributed condoms, and in 2007, only 12 million condoms were recovered from a recall of 20 million that had failed an air-burst test.. 

Of course, the South African health department had enough to deal with before this latest defective-condom scandal: despite the increased prevalence of sex-education initiatives and a massive decline in infection rates, myths about condom use and HIV/AIDS still run rampant in the country, particularly in impoverished areas. It's hard enough getting people to believe that condom use decreases the risk of infection, so the distribution of 1.5 million defective rubbers isn't going to help South Africans have faith in their efficacy, not to mention in the health department itself. So yeah, as much as I hate to use the term "big fail": big fucking fail, South African health department.