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Cuba Is Facing a Condom Shortage

Local media reported that the shortage was due to a necessary repackaging of all rubbers after a mislabeling of the expiration date.

by Olivia Becker
Apr 21 2014, 9:10pm

Photo by Miki Yoshihito

Cuba is currently facing a shortage in condoms — sparking worries about the impact this could have on the country’s rate of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies.

For the past month, condom supplies have been dwindling in pharmacies across the country.

Cuban journalist and blogger Polina Shvietsova Martínez reported that state-run pharmacies in Havana and elsewhere are fresh out of condoms. When she asked about the shortage, one pharmacist responded, “We do not have any and do not know where there are any."

The situation is especially critical in Villa Clara. The province has some of the highest rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in Cuba, according to the independent online Cuban news site Cubanet.

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Vanguardia,the Cuban state-run newspaper for Villa Clara, reported that the shortage was due to a necessary repackaging of all condoms due a mislabeling of the expiration date.

The company ENSUME, which supplies condoms wholesale to state-run pharmacies, is charged with repackaging the condoms with a new expiration date of December 2014.

Despite extending the expiration date by more than six months, officials assured they are still safe to use.

ENSUME did not immediately respond to calls by VICE News on Monday.

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But a spokesperson for ENSUME told Vanguardia that they were only able to prepare about 43,000 condoms a month, which was unable to meet the demand of about 150,000 every month in Villa Clara alone, causing the supply to diminish and prices for condoms to increase in pharmacies throughout Cuba.

“Due to irregularities in the process of repackaging, which caused prolonged absences of contraception throughout the country, the Ministry of Health authorized the sale of ‘Moments’ condoms in their current boxes,” the newspaper said in a report last week.

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Cuba is often praised for having one of the lowest rates of HIV in the world, with less than 0.1 percent of adults living with HIV in the entire country, according to UNICEF.

This is due to the drastic measures taken by the government in the 1980s to prevent the spread of the virus as soon as it appeared on the island. These policies included isolating those who were infected and adopting national public health initiatives aimed at raising awareness about the risks of unprotected sex and HIV.

However, this condom shortage is bringing about renewed fears that the rates of HIV might spike and spread the disease throughout the island for the first time in decades.

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928

Photo via Flickr