ESHA: HIV spreading because young people lack money for condoms (1)
As HIV is spreading increasingly via sexual transmission in Estonia, and increasingly in the younger demographic in particular, the Estonian Sexual Health Association considers it critical that the government increase funding for preventive measures and consider offering discounted or free contraceptives such as condoms.
270 people were diagnosed with HIV in Estonia last year. Estonia remains in first place in Europe in number of new cases of infection annually. There are already over 9,200 cases of HIV in Estonia, ERR’s radio news reported.
As statistics from recent years show that an increasing number of cases are not among the homosexual and injecting drug users, but rather younger and heterosexual demographics, the Estonian Sexual Health Association is of the opinion that the government should increase its support of preventive measures.
Director of the Estonian Sexual Health Association Marie Abel recommends handing out discounted or free condoms to young people, for example.
“Responding to a survey, many young people have emphasized that condoms are too expensive for them,” Abel explained. “Free condoms are available at youth counseling centers, but this issue should not be limited to that. That is why one idea was that the government should help improve access to condoms. Ideally they would be available in all kinds of healthcare facilities and other such places where people go.”
Abel said that in her work she often encounters youth who have become pregnant or acquired a sexually transmitted infection because they did not have the money to purchase contraceptives.
“Young people’s financial capabilities are limited,” Abel noted. “When speaking to them one-on-one, they will often admit that they do not have the money to buy condoms and contraceptives. This issue affects a much greater number of youth than we realize.”
The Ministry of Social Affairs commented that condoms already are distributed for free in the scope of various initiatives, but handing out condoms in greater numbers may not even be the most effective.
“It is of course very important to us that condoms be readily available, since that is the easiest method of protecting oneself from HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections,” said Ministry Deputy Secretary General Ivi Normet. “But there exists no such plan for the government to subsidize the cost of condoms or distribute them en masse for free.”