Dropping Oil Prices Is Driving Up Risk Of Contracting HIV Or Getting Pregnant In Venezuela

Dropping oil prices is having a disastrous effect on the economy of Venezuela, but more critically, it is forcing its citizens to the brink of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD).

Venezuela’s economy doesn’t look good. The falling oil prices have hit the country pretty badly. For a country where 95 percent of foreign currency earnings come through export of crude oil, a lot depends on the oil prices remaining high for a long time. But as the price the country receives for its oil exports fell 60 percent in the past seven months, the economy is being pushed to the brink with a three in four chance of default in the next 12 months if oil prices don’t recover.

The most severe impact of the falling oil prices is being seen in everyday lives, as Venezuelans are being forced to stand in serpentine queues just to procure daily necessities which are in very short supply. However, the commodity that will perhaps have a huge cascading event is contraceptives or condoms, and this is no laughing matter.

Venezuela has one of South America’s highest rates of HIV infection and teenage pregnancy. What’s more, abortion has been deemed illegal by the government. In other words, unwanted or accidental pregnancies aren’t allowed to be terminated by law, and anyone found attempting to abort a baby faces criminal prosecution. Needless to say, the escalating shortage of condoms puts everything at risk, laments Jhonatan Rodriguez, general director of the non-profit health group StopVIH.

“Without condoms we can’t do anything. This shortage threatens all the prevention programs we have been working on across the country.”

Condoms and other contraceptives vanished from many Venezuelan pharmacies and clinics in December, as the government tightened dollar disbursements amidst sliding oil revenue, reported the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation. Not a single condom was in sight in over 10 eastern and central Caracas pharmacies visited in late January.

Those who are looking for condoms have to head to the few online stores that do stock the shockingly rare commodity. However, these websites, sensing a huge potential to make a quick buck, have drastically raised the prices. Some retailers are selling a pack of condoms for as high as $755.

Though prices of everything from flour to heart medicine have spiked since December, perhaps it is the condom emergency created by the falling oil prices that is of most concern.

[Image Credit | Carlos Eduardo Ramirez/Reuters]