PRO/EDR> Sexually transmitted diseases – Cuba: lack of cheap, easily accessible condoms


A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Mon 15 May 2023
Source: Havana Times, 14YMEDIO report (in Spanish) [edited]

The last batch of condoms destined for commerce and for Artemisa’s
medical offices was received 2 years ago. Since then, the Directorate
of Pharmacies and Opticians of the province recognizes in the local
press that the supply has been limited only to the informal market,
where Cubans can get the product at prohibitive prices.

Sarah Varona Monzón, spokesperson for the Directorate, confirmed to
the newspaper that since the first quarter of 2021 they have not
received a single package of condoms, unlike contraceptive tablets,
which do arrive at the offices and are delivered every 15 days to the

“Before, when condoms came in, they were evenly distributed among all
pharmacy units. That would be the same strategy if they came back,”
the official says.

In the article entitled “Condoms in Cuba: Taking Care of Yourself or
Not Taking Care of Yourself, That’s the Problem,” El Artemiseño
recognizes the failure in the supply of contraceptive methods and says
the informal market is the only alternative to avoid both sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancies.

The cycle of contraceptive injections for a year usually costs 3600
pesos [USD 150], while each condom is worth between 35 and 50 pesos
[USD 1.45-2.00]. “Even if they’re more expensive, they’re worth paying
for,” admits Mario Rodríguez, a 24-year-old man interviewed by the

According to the newspaper, only the international pharmacy of Mariel,
in Artemisa, has condoms at USD 2.40 in MLC (freely convertible
currency) for a box of 3, equivalent to 288 pesos [USD 12] in national
currency at the official exchange rate or about 440 pesos [USD 18] in
the informal market. Cubans “have no choice but to succumb to Facebook
and WhatsApp groups that, these days, meet so many needs of everyday
life,” he adds.

But not all Cubans can afford to pay the exorbitant prices of the
informal market, and the media recognizes that the data on sexual
diseases are not “good.” A report by the Artemis Public Health
Directorate revealed that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has grown
significantly since its inception in 1986. There was only a decrease
in 2022 in diagnoses compared to the previous year, attributable to
the fact that the search for cases was focused on the municipalities
of Guanajay, Güira de Melena, and Candelaria.

Young people between the ages of 20 and 24 are the “most affected” and
represent 28.3% of the total number of patients diagnosed. Then there
is the group from 25 to 29 years old, with 15.1%. The same percentage
represents the confirmed cases of Cubans between the ages of 30 and
34. “The male sex continues to predominate in the epidemic, especially
men who have sex with men (HSH), although, there are also cases of the
female sex,” cites El Artemiseño.

The most contagious diseases are syphilis and gonorrhea. The report
indicates that syphilis increased in all the municipalities of the
province, although the highest incidence is recorded in the
municipalities of Bahía Honda, San Cristóbal, Bauta, and Artemisa.
In this case, clinical pictures predominate among young people from 19
to 24 years old.

On the other hand, the infection rate of gonorrhea — also known as
blennorrhagia — is 46.1 per 100 000 inhabitants. As with syphilis,
the age groups with the most confirmed diagnoses are young people aged
19 to 24. In this case, the municipalities with the highest infections
are Artemisa, Güira de Melena, Bahía Honda, and San Cristóbal.

Contraceptive methods have become popular among the products that
Cubans living abroad bring on their visits to the Island. The
morning-after pill and intrauterine devices arrive many times with
travelers, for their relatives or to resell them. A single
morning-after pill costs between 700 and 900 pesos [USD 29-37.50] in
the informal market.

Cuba also receives donations, but Lester Rojas Lay, provincial
coordinator of the HSH Network, affirms that they are not enough for
the needs of the population. They recently received a shipment of
prophylactics aimed at the gay population from the Global Fund to
Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“We are clear: we only give a sample because our mission is to educate
in the use of protected sex. Everything would be easier if they were
in the pharmacy,” said the coordinator, who explained that they only
offer 21 condoms and 10 lubricants a year.

El Artemiseño adds that the “misfortune” of the shortage of condoms
goes beyond diseases since it is also the most effective method in the
prevention of pregnancies. Similarly, he points out that Artemisa has
very young pregnancy rates: 31% of women between 20 and 24 years old,
followed by 16.6% of young people between 15 and 19 years old.

Finally, the newspaper doubts whether the high rate of pregnancies
should be attributed only to the lack of condoms since there is also a
great “ignorance and unconsciousness of the act at such a young age”
among artemiseños.

[Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba]

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.