Condom shortage contributing to spread of AIDS

Posted: 8 October 2002

Acute shortages of condoms are contributing to the swelling numbers of HIV/AIDS cases in eastern Europe and developing countries. The shortfall is the result of inadequate aid efforts, as well as trade barriers and an indifferent private sector, according to a report from Population Action International (PAI).

An estimated 8 billion condoms are needed each year for protection against HIV/AIDS, the report say. But the donor country support for condom distribution has been "erratic and inconsistent", actually falling from 1.5 billion condoms distributed in 1996 to 950 million in 2000, despite the fact that the number of people infected by HIV has escalated to 40 million. A total of 20 million people have already died of AIDS, which is reducing life expectancy in parts of Africa to less than 40 years.

Click here for graph: Projected Number of Condoms Needed for HIV/STI Prevention in the Developing World and Eastern Europe, 2000-2015

Dr Steven Sinding, director-general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said: "It is appalling that such a simple, inexpensive, life-saving aid cannot be made freely available to all in need. There is simply no excuse - economic, social or otherwise - for the lack of attention to saving lives."

The for-profit sector has its strongest market presence in Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea and Malaysia, the report says. Given the gap between the need, and the supply from donors, the potential exists for commercial sector involvement in other markets.

The report called for partnerships between the private sector and non-profit organisations and a shift in the subsidisation of condoms from users who can afford to buy them (the international market price is 3 US cents) to the poor.

Although it is the largest single donor, the US came in for particular criticism. The Bush administration has withheld its contribution to the UN Population Fund, the second largest condoms provider and its "buy-American" policies forces USAID to pay up to twice as much per condom as the world price; its global "gag rule" which denies family planning funds to foreign organisations that provide abortion information has cut supplies to many local organisations.

Source: IPPF News, October 3, 2002 Related link:Populaiton Action International report, Condoms Count.