Background: Promoting condom use to prevent HIV transmission is futile if condoms are not readily available.
Goal: This study assessed condom availability in clinics, shops, and other outlets in urban and rural South Africa.
Study design: Snowball sampling was used to select 70 private-sector and public-sector outlets. One male and one female black fieldworker were posed as clients seeking condoms to assess condom availability and provider attitudes.
Results: Condoms were available in nine (100%) public clinics, in five of nine (55%) private doctor's rooms, and in only 5 of 52 (10%) nonhealth outlets. Access was limited in the public sector by clinic opening times, inadequate clinic signs and markings, and by some providers' attitudes.
Conclusion: A major opportunity to make condoms available in nonhealth outlets in rural areas and urban townships is being missed in South Africa. Above all, the high level of condom awareness is not being matched by easy availability.