The ins and outs of keeping your sex safe
A condom factory in Durban is at the heart of reducing HIV/Aids across the country, and creating jobs at the same time
Before they reach bedrooms, hotel rooms, the backseat of cars and wallets, millions of government condoms undergo a thorough probe to determine if they can take a pounding.
At a R150-million condom factory nestled in Durban's Dube Tradeport precinct, specialised machinery imported from China inspects 700,000 condoms a day for defects and durability. Keeping you sex-safe is no small feat.
HBM-SA Health Protection (Pty) is keeping its trade secret on exactly how the colourful and flavour-filled MAX condoms are manufactured, but is did lay bare its testing process to Times Select.
Every condom is screened via an electronic testing system for holes, while samples from batches have to pass the “burst” test.“International Organisation for Standardisation requires that the pressure must not be less than 1kPa. Our condoms, on average, are 2kPa, therefore exceeding the ISO standard requirement,” HBM-SA financial manager Vanessa Ranchhod said.
Every condom also has a unique batch number.
“That number is very important. It will tell us where the condom was made, what time and who made it. So that guarantees the safety of the end user,” HBM-SA chief executive officer Sibusiso Lushaba said.
HBM-SA said meeting the standards set for condoms came easily for them as its technical partner, HBM Inc, a US-based company with operations in China, is a leading condom manufacturer.
The factory is set to manufacture 1.4 million condoms a day at full capacity to meet government’s demand of a billion a year.
The company, which had been importing condoms to supply the government for the past five years, explored manufacturing them locally because as many as 99% of South Africa's condoms come from China.“From our perspective, given the government mandate to promote local production and job creation, it was natural discussion to have,” Ranchhod said.
HMB-SA then began its commissioning stage, during which at least five millions condoms were manufactured. Commercial manufacturing will begin once its approval certificate from the South African Bureau of Standards is received.
Lushaba said the condoms had passed South African Bureau of Standards tests, and he expected the certificate in a matter of days.
HMB-SA has also propositioned governments and private clients within the Southern African Development Community.
“We have already received a lot of enquiries from the SADC region,” Lushaba said.
Asked if the size of the condom would change per region, Lushaba said the plant manufactured a standard size – but he was open to meeting clients' requirements.Earlier this month, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi visited the factory with his KZN counterpart Sibongiseni Dhlomo, and said he was pleased at what he saw. The factory, said Dhlomo, would create at least 150 jobs – and would keep South Africans safe from sexually-transmitted infections.
“The minister was impressed to see that this factory has the capacity to produce 1.4 million condoms per day. Here in KZN, we have reaped the most rewards through this factory, because there will not be a shortage of condoms in KZN,” said Dhlomo.
According to his department, condoms were still one of the safest measures to prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
“Statistics show that, in South Africa, women and girls aged 15 to 24 are at highest risk of contracting HIV, while unplanned pregnancies contribute significantly to the high drop-out rate at high schools and institutions of tertiary education,” the department said.