Facing a Contraceptive Crisis, Venezuelan Women Are Paying Hundreds of Dollars for Condoms
Women are turning to expensive social media markets and begging travelers to bring back condoms.
A contraceptive shortage in economically devastated Venezuela is making safe-sex a luxury and forcing women to do whatever it takes to avoid getting pregnant — even if that means trying some pretty dubious and expensive methods.
One website advises women to eat papaya twice a day, to consume a couple dried figs, or to increase the amount of Vitamin C they ingest in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Another encourages women to try the “counting method” to track fertility cycles and avoid having sex while ovulating.
Meanwhile, an emerging social media marketplace has enabled Venezuelan women to purchase birth control pills and other contraceptive devices at exorbitant prices.
Venezuela is in the midst of a deep economic crisis that has triggered food, fuel, and medication shortages, along with nationwide unrest. That instability has exacerbated the contraceptive crisis by driving up costs and limiting the supply of condoms and other tools.
Two years ago, Venezuela already had the highest teenage pregnancy rate in South America, according to data compiled by the World Bank.
The lack of reliable contraceptives is making the problem worse, according to Venezuelan doctors, who report an increase in unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases throughout the country, according to the Washington Post.
“In my private practice, out of every ten patients, five or six now have an STD,” one doctor told the Washington Post. “Two years ago it was just two or three.”
The contraceptive crisis is a drastic change in Venezuela, where condoms and intrauterine device were long available for free at hospitals and public programs. A pack of condoms can now cost up to $200, Vice reported last year.
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Women and girls are seeking condoms from other countries and asking travelers to stuff their luggage with condoms before they return from abroad, according to the Washington Post.
“Last time, I got them from my sister-in-law, who brought them from Colombia,” Alejandra Moran, a Caracas publicist, told the Washington Post. “And I’ll be traveling to Spain in December, so I’ll stock up for myself and my friends.”
Most women don’t have access to imported contraceptives in a country where a pack of condoms can cost a week’s salary, however.
"People are desperate,” the country’s pharmaceutical chief told Vice. “They are taking anything they can get hold of.