Venezuela's Condom Crisis Could Kill More Than Romance

Feb 6, 2015

Latex condoms like these are so scarce in Venezuela that a standard 36-pack can cost more than $750.
Credit Flickr

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.