Health authorities in South Africa have recalled more than a million condoms that were handed out in the lead up to the African National Congress centenary celebrations.

The action was taken after South Africa’s HIV group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) issued a warning, having received complaints from the public, that large numbers of faulty condoms appeared to be in circulation in the Bloemfontein area.

8,700 boxes of condoms, with the South African Bureau of Standards stamp, were delivered to guesthouses, hotels, restaurants and bars before the ANC celebrations. Authorities are still investigating complaints that the condoms are porous. The Free State Health Department said the recall, which they estimate at 1.35 million condoms is just a “precautionary measure” and asked the public not to be alarmed.

TAC’s Sello Mokhalipi told the BBC that condoms :

“Are still out there in large numbers and that is of great concern to us … The complaints are that the condoms broke during intercourse.”

He continued that the TAC conducted its own investigations using some of the condoms handed out during the centenary celebrations and discovered them to be porous :

Free State Health Department spokesperson Jabu Mbalula said the health authority would not be able to make a clear statement on the issue until it had conducted its own tests on the condoms recovered from the handouts.

This is the first time that Free State province, which has a population of 5.5 million people, needed to recall condoms, although it’s not the first time that South Africa has had problems of this kind. In August 2007 when 20 million contraceptives were recalled after “hundreds of thousands” were found to be faulty.

South Africa, having one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world, has in recent years made a push to promote awareness and condom use.

Written by Rupert Shepherd