The National AIDS Control Organisation, in a first of its kind initiative, will begin random checking of condoms picked directly from the market to assess quality compliance in the male contraceptive.

The “Condom Quality Audit”, starting this month, will be undertaken in 303 districts of the country, in which random samples will be collected directly from shops and sent to a government approved laboratory for testing, Gaurav Jain, Team leader of Technical Support Group for Condom Promotion at NACO said.

At present, schedule R of the Indian Drugs Act, 1940 makes it mandatory for the manufacturers to send not less than 0.5 per cent condoms produced in each batch for quality testing in government recommended laboratories.

“Such test samples are collected from production sites but there are no provisions for testing products sold in the market. This maiden study will help us in assessing quality of condoms provided to the consumer,” Mr. Jain said.

The assessment, to be undertaken by the Group, will also cover condoms distributed through free or subsidised channels besides commercial brands.

The districts, where the study will be conducted, are spread across 25 states and have been divided in four zones based on the levels of HIV prevalence.

About 100-150 samples of each brand will be randomly collected in the process and will be subjected to strict testing.

In India, the condom usage in a year is about 220 crores, distributed through three major channels - free brand ‘Nirodh’ (distributed through government agencies), subsidised one like ‘Deluxe Nirodh’, ‘Masti’ and ‘Rakshak’ (distributed through social marketing groups) and commercial brands such as ’Kama Sutra’ and ‘Kohinoor’, among others.

The random sampling, which will include all the three types of products, will be done in a scientific way by a third party Research Group, the name of which will be decided soon, a senior health ministry official said.

The effort has been undertaken as part of the first condom social marketing programme of the NACO. Started in April last year, the programme is funded under the National Rural Health Mission.