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Avellon Williams 

CUBAN- In the province of Guantanamo, Dr. Deglis Luciano, head of the STD Program, said that the lack of condoms in pharmacies and health centers has led to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), unwanted pregnancies, and abortions.

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According to the official, there was also an increase in cases of vaginal discharge syndrome between January and October 2022. Vaginal discharge syndrome causes burning, stench, irritation, and discomfort when patients urinate. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and syphilis infections also increased.

According to health reports, the number of abortions performed in 2022 was the highest in the last two years. Also, the doctor recognized that unofficial abortions aren’t counted, are carried out by the health system, but are not recorded, thereby increasing the risk of sterility and causing the woman’s death.

The Venceremos note, titled Between Precautions and Deceptions, acknowledges that “in recent months” there has been a marked deficiency in the availability of contraceptive methods on the Island, including condoms, pills, and injections, the most popular and affordable method for family planning. As a result, sexually active people are unable to have responsible relationships, she said.

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According to the same newspaper, Melissa, a young Cuban woman, is more concerned about getting birth control pills than “carrying on with a calendar at hand” to track her period. “That there is talk of dealing with STDs with condoms, and that there is no way to buy them at a reasonable price, I am amused, although it is not funny. How much more time will it take for the problem to be resolved,” questioned the woman.

The condom shortage in Cuba is not a recent problem, but it has worsened since the covid-19 pandemic. This newspaper reported in 2020 that pharmacies did not carry the product, considered one of the most efficient because it prevents the spread of diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Cubans could only find them in stores that accepted CUC (the USD equivalent that no longer exists) and at prohibitive prices.

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There is no formal or orderly market to control the sale of goods in Guantanamo, so the virtual candonga [private market] takes center stage. Several groups on social networks offer contraceptive products, including through the popular classifieds site Revolico, which has become “almost the only option” for Cubans.

In a recent survey of high school students, it was revealed that young Cubans are having difficulty acquiring contraceptive methods because of the high prices at hard currency stores and in the informal market.

In the black-market networks, a condom can cost 50 pesos and birth control pills are sold at the price the seller wants, according to those interviewed for this study, for whom there is no choice but to “adjust with them.”

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Santiago de Cuba started distributing prophylaxis drugs (PrEP) last September to combat AIDS spread due to a shortage of condoms. PrEP can prevent the virus that causes AIDS from spreading. According to the newspaper Sierra Maestra, few people seek this treatment, although more consultations are planned in four Havana municipalities and in Santiago due to the high HIV prevalence there.

“PrEP is an additional preventive method for people who do not have HIV, but who have a higher risk of becoming infected due to biological characteristics and the conditions in which they carry out their sexual life, marked by stigma and discrimination,” said the doctor, who insisted that the drug has been shown to cut transmission and decrease the incidence of the virus.

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In 2019, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and other United Nations agencies introduced this drug in Cuba, and the first tests were conducted in Matanzas and Cárdenas.

Among the things Cuban emigrants bring back to their homeland are more contraceptive methods than ever before. The collection of money from social networks is frequent for bringing luggage loaded with medicines to the country, among them condoms, which are unavailable in national pharmacies.

Additionally, travelers often import the morning-after pill and intrauterine devices for their families or for resale on the black market. These pills to stop pregnancy cost between 700 and 900 Cuban pesos in the informal market.

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Avellon Williams

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