The shortage of condoms in Gauteng, one of South Africa’s most populous provinces, has raised concerns about the potential impact on public health, particularly the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. The shortage is reportedly due to a problem with a new supplier contracted to provide condoms to the province starting in February 2022 as reported by News 24.
According to Gauteng MEC for Health and Wellness Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, the new supplier did not have sufficient stock to deliver the number of condoms required by the province. In addition, the supplier was waiting for approval of samples from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) before they could order in bulk from manufacturers. The delay in SABS approval meant that the province experienced a significant decrease in condom distribution between April and September 2022.
The shortage of condoms has been a major concern for public health officials, given the high rates of STIs and HIV/AIDS in South Africa. According to the National Department of Health, the country has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, with an estimated 7.7 million people living with the virus in 2021. South Africa also has high rates of other STIs, such as gonorrhoea and syphilis.
The decrease in condom distribution has already impacted public health in Gauteng. In February 2023, 6,035 cases of STIs were treated in the province, compared to 5,486 in February 2022. The shortage of condoms is also likely to impact family planning, as condoms are one of the most widely used forms of contraception in South Africa.
The provincial government spent almost R170 million on male condoms alone in the 2021/22 financial year, highlighting the importance of condom distribution in public health. However, the shortage of condoms has also raised concerns about the government’s contract management and the need for reliable and cost-effective suppliers.
In response to the shortage, the DA’s MEC Jack Bloom has criticized the government’s contract management and urged the need for reliable and cost-effective suppliers. He stated, “we need to get the basics right in healthcare in Gauteng. This includes proper contract management so that reliable and cost-effective suppliers are always chosen, rather than companies that don’t deliver.”
Photo by cottonbro studio