NAIROBI, 10 September 2009 (PlusNews) - Kenyan AIDS authorities are struggling to restore public confidence in condoms after an alarming news report recently showed locally stocked brands to be defective.
KTN, a local TV station, showed the condoms, purchased from vendors in the capital, Nairobi, being tested by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). Subjected to an electronic “freedom from holes” test, which involves filling them with water, the condoms sprung leaks.
"This will seriously affect the confidence of those who have always been consistent in using them - how do members of the public know what brand is safe and which is not?" asked Hilary Okoth, a 30-year-old Nairobi resident.
"Imagine a woman who is supposed to negotiate condom use as they are always told," he added. "The man will simply tell her 'those things leak, it doesn’t make a difference'."
Hot, one of the condom brands featured in the news report, was recently banned in Zambia after the Zambia Bureau of Standards found holes in them.
According to Nicholas Muraguri, director of the National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Control Programme, NASCOP, most condoms imported into the country are of sound quality.
"I want to assure Kenyans that those are isolated cases and the condoms that are distributed by the government - which account for 75 percent of what is used - are actually of high quality and pass WHO [UN World Health Organization] standards," he told IRIN/PlusNews.
KEBS - responsible for quality control of products sold in Kenya - does not routinely test imported condoms.
"We cannot deny there are cases of low quality condoms in the country because they have not been passing through the Kenya Bureau of Standards for quality assurance," Muraguri said.
"The government is joking; how can a product that involves saving human life be allowed into the country without going through rigorous quality tests?" Okoth questioned.
Muraguri said NASCOP had asked KEBS to test all brands of condoms sold in Kenya for safety, with a view to banning those found to be defective; the bureau is due to release a preliminary report on 11 September.
"I think we need to do more in monitoring the condoms that enter the country," said James Gesami, assistant minister of public health. "We are endangering the lives of our people by letting condoms that cannot stand the quality test into the market."
Condoms are a key component of Kenya's HIV prevention strategy, with at least 160 million distributed in the country annually by the government.