November 2001

South Africa census staff carry condoms


SUMMARY: In a controversial move, South Africa has given more than 100,000 census takers condoms to carry with them as they make their rounds.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Some countries give their census takers copies of legislation which requires people to answer their questions. In others, census takers are given mace to protect themselves. In South Africa, more than 100,000 census takers have been issued with condoms.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world. Official United Nations figures estimate that one in nine South Africans -- out of a population of 45 million -- are infected with the virus.

Officials said the condoms were given to workers in case anyone is "led into temptation" during their work.

Owen Thothela, the Free State census manager, said: "The condoms are for use." The health department said the move was part of the country's AIDS awareness program.

Opposition leaders expressed concern that staff "may be encouraged to forget that their task is to accumulate statistics to help good government."