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Condom Shortage "Contributing to the Spread of AIDS in East Europe and Third World"

October 2, 2002

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

An estimated 8 billion condoms are needed each year for protection against HIV/AIDS, PAI said. But the donor country support for condom distribution has been "erratic and inconsistent," actually falling from 970 million condoms distributed in 1990 to 950 million in 2000. 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 private and non-profit partnerships and a shift in the subsidization of condoms from users who can afford to buy them (the international market price is 3 US cents) to the poor. More effective prevention efforts would require greater commitment by recipient countries and improvements in supply and distribution systems. Each country has its own exacting demands for storage, logistics and purchasing practices; these must be streamlined and coordinated.

Although it is the largest single donor, the United States came in for particular criticism in PAI's report. The Bush administration has withheld its contribution to the UN Population Fund, the second largest condom provider. Its "buy American" policies, PAI said, force the US Agency for International Development to pay up to twice as much per condom as the world price. Its global "gag rule" denies family planning funds to foreign organizations that provide abortion information and has cut supplies to many local organizations, PAI said.

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Excerpted from:
Financial Times (London)
10.02.02; Nancy Dunne




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