Britai has donated £1million to help South Africa buy 42million condoms ahead of the World Cup. Fearing this summer’s festivities will spark a surge in Aids, South Africa asked for help to make sure there is enough protection for the 500,000 supporters set to flood into the country. With up to 1,500 new HIV infections a day, South Africa is the world’s worst affected country. International Development Minister Gareth Thomas announced the donation at an emergency summit in London called to iron out concerns over slow progress in tackling the epidemic.
“As the economic downturn squeezes the health budgets of the world’s poorest countries, efforts to tackle HIV and Aids are being hit hardest,” he said. “That is why the UK is supporting South Africa’s drive to turn the tide on their epidemic.” In 2007, Britain donated more condoms to the developing world than any other country. It may have saved millions of lives. “Condoms are the only effective way of protecting an uninfected person having sex with an infected person, until we get a microbicide,” says Professor Alan Whiteside, one of the world’s leading experts on HIV since the epidemic began in 1981. “And Britain’s excellent track record on condoms is born of two things: realism and consistency,” he told The Times newspaper. “Britain has a pragmatic view of the world and of public health. That has made the difference,” said Whiteside, a South African who is a visiting professor at the University of Liverpool’s School of Tropical Medicine.
By the 1990s it was obvious that Africa needed condoms. But, says Jagdish Upadhyay, of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the largest distributor of condoms in the developing world, Britain was among the few who stepped forward. “Since 1994, Britain has been a very, very strong supporter of reproductive health,” Upadhyay says. Peter Roach, of the Durex Network, the social side of the company that works with governments and charities said: “At the International Aids Conference in 2002, there was hardly a mention of condoms. It wasn’t until 2008 that there has been a concerted effort to bring prevention back on to the international agenda, equal to treatment.”
In Nigeria, Britain is now giving £45 million to condoms and their promotion over six years. This pattern is repeated all over Africa: Britain has given Kenya £22 million over five years, 80 per cent of it for condoms. There’s a similar story in Zimbabwe, and so on. In 2007 the UK provided more than half a billion condoms to developing countries, more than a thousand condoms a minute.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children