updated 9/5/2007 7:34:31 PM ET 2007-09-05T23:34:31

More than 100,000 condoms given away in a citywide campaign to reduce HIV and AIDS have been returned because of complaints that their paper packaging can be easily damaged and could make the condoms ineffective.

A coalition of nonprofit groups distributing the condoms for the District of Columbia Health Department returned them after they heard complaints and noticed less demand for them.

“People were saying, ‘These packages aren’t any good,’” said Franck DeRose, executive director of a group called the Condom Project.

Volunteers also were told that the paper packets ripped in purses or burst open in pockets and that expiration dates were illegible.

The condoms are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, DeRose said, but higher-end condoms could have been bought without the city’s branding at the same price. The group returned the condoms June 14.

Dr. Gregg Pane, the city’s health director, said Wednesday that the condoms are safe and effective and denied that the packaging was a problem. The department will survey the distribution partners to make sure they are storing and handling the packages properly, he said.

“We purchased these through a vendor who followed FDA standards. We have no credible reports from the manufacturer, the FDA or anyone else about performance, safety or quality issues,” he told WRC-TV.

Young people involved with the group Metro TeenAIDS said they wondered why the wrappers weren’t plastic or foil, like those sold in stores.

“They doubted the authenticity of the condoms,” Adam Tenner, the group’s executive director, said of those who were offered the prophylactics. “Distribution of those condoms has been really difficult.”

The health department has given out nearly 650,000 condoms since February through partnerships with 50 organizations. The free condoms are marked with the slogan “Coming Together to Stop HIV in D.C.”

DeRose said his group is instead buying condoms to give away.

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