updated 10/23/2007 5:24:16 PM ET 2007-10-23T21:24:16

South Africa is recalling millions of locally manufactured condoms after tens of thousands failed an air burst test, dealing a further blow to the country's campaign to prevent the spread of AIDS.

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The Health Ministry said Tuesday the recall involves condoms distributed free by the government.

It follows a scandal in which the South African company Zalatex was found to have bribed an official of the South African Bureau of Standards to approve defective condoms. After the scandal broke in August, the government ordered 20 million condoms to be recalled or held at the factory. Only 12 million have been recovered.

Controversy about the country's AIDS policy has raged for years, with critics accusing the government of doing too little to slow the epidemic. South Africa has 5.5 million AIDS victims — the highest number in the world — with 900 people dying per day.

The recalls also have raised questions about the competence of the Bureau of Standards, which is supposed to ensure that condoms are up to World Health Organization standards.

The latest recall came after at least five batches of condoms made by the South African company Kohrs Medical Supplies failed the air burst test, the Health Ministry said in a statement. Condoms supplied by two other companies passed the test, the ministry said.

"We appeal to the public and all partners involved in the distribution and promotion of the use of condoms to assist with the recall," the statement said.

The ministry said it was canceling its contract with Kohrs, which was to supply the government with nearly 64 million condoms. The Zalatex contract was canceled in August. The government had contracted seven companies to supply 425 million condoms in the year ending in February.

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