The possibility of a global shortage of condoms was alluded to back in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 that had shut down factories and the supply chain disruption.
The concern follows a question tabled by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Selebi-Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse, who had asked the health ministry to confirm the veracity of the disturbing and gravely worrying information that there is an acute shortage of condoms and HIV test kits. Keorapetse also wanted to understand the extent of the shortage of the prevention materials and test kits; if they are still available, when the shortage was first experienced, and whether the test kits include both rapid and lab? Moreover, he also wanted to know the cause and possible effects of the shortage; how the ministry intends to address the problem; give timelines and how it will prevent a recurrence? Parliament feared HIV/AIDS infections may spark due to this shortage, especially since the festive season is fast approaching.
The legislators urged that a condom is a critical medical device and so essential to have as it is the most widely used contraceptive in the country. Responding to the question, the Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe conceded that the country is currently faced with a shortage of condoms. “Yes, I can confirm that there is a shortage of condoms. Regarding HIV tests, we have enough supply of HIV rapid test kits, which is widely used countrywide. However what we have a shortage of is the HIV self-test kits, which have been recently introduced in the country and the shortage does not disrupt testing at all,” he said.
Lelatisitswe further revealed that the shortage of condoms was first experienced in August 2021 to date.
He added that the tendering process for a framework contract for branded condoms was ongoing and is expected to be finalised in the next three months. However, Lelatisitswe said the government has implemented mitigating strategies while awaiting the finalisation of a full framework contract. He disclosed that a donation from the ministry’s development partner is expected in the country around mid-December 2021. “A waiver for six months' stock of branded condoms has been awarded and deliveries are expected from January 2022.
The ministry is also considering the procurement of unbranded condoms as their delivery timelines are generally shorter,” he said. Sharing the same sentiments as the other legislators, Lelatisitswe conceded that the possible effects of the shortage of condoms are an increase in new HIV infections, increased sexually transmitted infections and increased unplanned pregnancies.
The MP for Maun East Goretetse Kekgonegile pleaded with the ministry to put in place mitigating factors to the shortage in tourism areas like Maun and Kasane where there will be an influx of people during the festive season. “Condoms are essential and a must-have. Do you think people will wait for January to have sex?” Kekgonegile asked rhetorically.