Solomon Islands Reports Condom Shortage; Officials Express Concerns About Effect on Spread of HIV
Several hospitals, clinics and health centers in the Solomon Islands have reported that their condom stocks have run out since last year, and some health authorities are concerned that the situation could contribute to the spread of HIV, the Solomon Star News reports. The island's primary condom suppliers -- the National Medical Store, Save the Children Australia and the Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association -- announced earlier this week that their condom stocks are gone. In addition, some provincial hospitals, such as those in Kilufi'i in Malaita and Gizo in the Western province, are reporting outages.
"We have no condoms in our stock since last year, and it is becoming an issue we really need to address seriously," Save the Children's HIV/AIDS program manager Casper Supa said. According to SIPPA program officer George Pitakoe, the organization has been out of stock since October 2008. He added that SIPPA's provincial centers in Gizo, Auki and Taro are out of stock and that although the shortage might indicate that more people are using condoms, the shortage is a serious concern. "We might see it as a good thing people are taking precautions, but the question is what happens if our stocks don't arrive in time as expected? We can't wait that long."
According to the Star News, the International Planned Parenthood Federation supplies condoms to SIPPA, but the group has to wait until June for the next shipment to arrive. Pitakoe added that when SIPPA's condom supply ran out in the past, the group would receive new supplies from the Medical Store; however, the Medical Store, which also supplies condoms to hospitals and clinics nationwide, has run out. An unnamed Medical Store employee said, "We have received orders from hospitals and clinics all over the country for new stocks of condoms since last year. But we cannot do anything because we are out of stock."
In an earlier interview, the Director of Pharmacy Wale Tobata said that the government has allocated 2.5 million Solomon Island dollars -- or about $350,000 -- for new supplies. According to the Star News, it is unclear if condoms are included in the order. An unnamed nurse called on the government to address the situation, adding, "We cannot live without condoms for too long because if we do, who knows -- a lot of people might not be using them and our HIV/AIDS cases in the country might increase" (Marau, Solomon Star News, 1/21).