Durban - The impact of a world-class condom factory at Dube TradePort – the first for KwaZulu-Natal, and second for the country – is unimaginable at the moment, the MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said on Tuesday.
Listing some of the benefits, he said there would be a decrease in maternal mortality, zero transmission of the HIV virus from mothers to their new-born babies, a decrease in the request for social grants as children’s’ parents would still be alive, and stability in the economy, with people focused on their work until retirement.
Dhlomo was speaking at a celebration marking the start of the construction of the R150-million factory, which will produce 700 000 condoms a day for the local and SADC export markets.
Some 145 people will get jobs.
The condoms, manufactured by the HBM-SA Health Protection Services company, will be free to South Africans, guests heard. Supplies were previously manufactured and imported from China.
The KZN Growth Fund (an initiative of the provincial government’s Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, which finances medium- to large-scale private sector projects) contributed R42.5m to the factory, with the balance coming from SA Health Protection Services and their American partner, HBM.
Tuesday's launch came against the backdrop of the city’s hosting of the 21st International Aids Conference, with several speakers at the Dube TradePort ceremony stressing that the production and availability of a locally-produced condom would make “an enormous contribution” in ridding the nation of the scourge of HIV/Aids.
Mayor James Nxumalo said 650 000 people were HIV-positive in the municipal area, and that 346 000 were on treatment, which represented the biggest campaign in the country. But the city was concerned about the missing 304 000 people and was attempting to trace them.
Sibusiso Lushaba, director of HBM-SA Health Protection, said the company had taken one of the larger sites at Dube TradePort, a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), and that being in a SEZ offered huge benefits (incentives) that would help the company in its competitive markets.
Keynote speaker, Sihle Zikalala, the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, reminded the audience that South Africa had come a long way in the fight against HIV/Aids, and that there had been a systematic change in the country’s policies and approach, especially in the response to issues around infection.
The establishment of a local condom factory was another step in the journey towards advancing the response, he said, adding how important it was for people know their status and be tested at least once a year.
Dhlomo called on the company to try and produce cheap female condoms, saying that some men were resistant to using condoms and (in such cases) their partners could use the female condom.