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Venezuela's Condom Crisis Could Kill More Than Romance


It seems as though every week we report on a new product shortage in Venezuela, from rice to toilet paper to breast implants. Now the western hemisphere's most oil-rich country has an acute lack of condoms. But this latest scarcity to emerge in Venezuela’s economic crisis could be deadly to more than just romance.

Thanks to a national currency crisis, Venezuela doesn’t have enough dollars to import the contraceptives. They’re so rare in Venezuela that a standard pack of 36 now costs more than $750 at the official exchange rate.

That raises serious health concerns because Venezuela already has Latin America’s third-highest rate of HIV infection.

“If the government doesn’t move more import dollars toward fixing this situation," says Jhonaton Rodríguez, who heads STOP HIV, a private Venezuelan health organization, "we'll face a far worse crisis of sexually transmitted diseases."

And more unwanted pregnancies. Venezuela also has one of Latin America’s highest teen pregnancy rates – and the region’s highest rate of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth.

“Venezuelans are sexually active at a young age," says Rodríguez. "Having no access to condoms could be catastrophic.”

Venezuela’s socialist government has promised to build condom factories. So far there are none.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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