Vitality

Public Sexual Health In Venezuela Looking Bleak As Condoms, Birth Control, And HIV Anti-Virals Become Scarce Due To Economic Crisis

Venezuela
People queue up to pay inside a Farmatodo drugstore in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 3, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Venezuela is currently facing a condom shortage. According to reports, a 36-pack of Trojan condoms now costs around $750. In a country already facing some of the highest teen pregnancy, STD, and HIV infection rates in South America, health experts are fearful that the recent inflation of condom prices could dangerously compromise citizens' sexual health.

Venezuela is financially dependent on its oil trade, and a recent drop in oil prices has seriously affected the country’s economy. As reported by Business Insider, the Venezuelan economy is set to shrink by seven percent in 2015, and every industry is feeling the financial crunch. However, it’s the scarcity of condoms that have many in the health industry most worried. Business Insider reported that the products are absent from pharmacies throughout the country. For condoms which are available to buy, the prices are seriously inflated. An auction website is selling a pack of 36 condoms for $750, while a smaller pack of only three condoms costs around $62.

“Without condoms we can’t do anything,” Jhonatan Rodriguez, general director at the not-for-profit health group StopVIH, told Bloomberg Business. “This shortage threatens all the prevention programs we have been working on across the country.” Venezuela already has the second highest rate of teen pregnancies on the continent.

According to Carlos Cabrera, a gynecologist working in Caracas, teen pregnancies are “a mark of government’s failure: failure of its economic, public health, and educational policy.” To reflect this teen pregnancy epidemic, clothing shops in Venezuela have recently begun to fill their shop windows with tiny mannequins wearing school girl uniforms.

“Yes, it's disturbing to see in a window,” Auriselvia Torrealba, 20, a Caracas local told Reuters. “But it's the truth. You see pregnant girls all the time on the streets. So this forces you to think about the problem, doesn't it?”

It’s not just condoms that are disappearing; Time reported that other forms of birth control, such as the pill, have also become harder to come by. Although abortion is illegal in Venezuela, it’s been disputed that in the long term the condom shortage could send more women to black-market abortion clinics. Here they may be subjected to dangerous procedures that may increase their risk of maternal death.

On top of the lack of birth control, Bloomberg Business also reported that anti-viral drugs for HIV patients have also hit critically low numbers, and with Venezuela having the third highest number of HIV infection rates in South America, this could mean that thousands will have to go without their life-saving drugs. 

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