Yes, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, but what you might not know is that today, February 13th, is the International Condom Day. It’s an informal holiday that’s celebrated – yes, intentionally – just before Valentine’s Day to raise awareness about safe sex practices (which include, of course, not just condom usage).
The national government has just released an interactive map of where exactly you can find free condoms in Argentina. There are 3,328 different locations to be exact, and the map even includes a separate section for free HIV testing sites. Economic insecurity has made safe sex inaccessible for a lot of Argentines, and resources like this make it easier to avoid sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, and the spread of HIV.
In fact, according to a survey by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation of Argentina, this year only 14.5 percent of Argentines surveyed used protection during all sexual relations, 65 percent use protection only sometimes, and over 20 percent never use protection at all. These numbers come from a survey of 30,000 citizens from 16 provinces across the country. Most startlingly, over 98 percent of new infections of HIV in Argentina are transmitted through unprotected sex. And of the over 122,ooo people in the country living with HIV, according to the website of the country’s Health Secretariat, 30 percent are diagnosed with late-stage HIV.
These numbers are shocking, particularly after hearing about the distinct locations (hospitals, community centers, government offices, etc.) in the country where not only free contraception, but also free information on safe sex is available. Also, not only is HIV testing free, but so is treatment, and it’s even avaliable without having to present documentation.
Natalia Haag, National Coordinator of Prevention and Testing of AHF Argentina, cited in La Nueva that on a national level there are two main factors that contribute to the lack of condom usage in the country. First, there haven’t been large campaigns with long-term public awareness or educative effects. This means a lot of the stigma surrounding sex still prevents safe sex education for young people across Argentina. Second, the Integrated Sex Education Law, despite being passed, has not been implemented federally, which means young people are missing formative sex education as early as primary school.
International Condom Day celebrations (which you can find more info about here) and the new condom map are both examples of ways that awareness and access for safe sex in Argentina are improving, albeit slowly.