Chile has raised a nationwide alert over nearly 1.2 million condoms it had imported from China for a government program to stop unwanted pregnancies, and halt the spread of HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
The Chilean Public Health Institute issued a statement calling on people who had already received the condoms to refrain from using them, and announced it would be holding the rest in "quarantine" until the problems are solved.
The statement, released on Monday, said the defects became evident during outreach classes on how to use the condoms that revealed a tendency to break and leak lubricant. It added that later tests showed them to be too small and kept in packages that deteriorate quickly upon handling.
The alert comes at a time when Chile is drawing attention for its massive increase in new cases of HIV, which some estimates say have doubled in the past decade.
Officials say that around 25,000 people are currently being treated for HIV in Chile, though some 14,000 more may be unaware they have contracted the virus. Activists put much of the blame for the silent rise of new cases on government reluctance to address deeply-entrenched conservative attitudes towards sex.
Alejandro Afani, the head of the HIV Center at the University of Chile, said, however, that this is not enough to explain the absence of a more concerted response to the HIV issue.
"All of Latin America is conservative, not just Chile," he said. "The problem is a lack of political will rather than cultural idiosyncrasy. They don't take the issue seriously or dedicate the resources it deserves."
Afani said the condom recall looks like an example of that lack of rigor to fighting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and others, which have also increased in recent years.
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Enrique Paris, president of the Medical College of Chile, said the blunder could also lead to legal cases.
"If somebody got a sexually transmitted disease, if they got HIV, after using one of these condoms that broke, they would be completely within their rights to sue," he told the Chilean news outlet Cooperativa.
Meanwhile, the Kaiju Condom brand released a statement on its Facebook page insisting that the product had passed all the tests before entering Chile and falls squarely within Chilean average penis sizes.
"Just because it is a Chinese product doesn't make it a bad product," the statement complained.
Chinese-made condoms have been deemed unsafe in the past. Ghana seized over 110 million Chinese-made condoms in 2013 after tests showed they broke easily.
Follow Nathaniel Janowitz on Twitter: @ngjanowitz