How is the Zika Virus Affecting Brazil’s Free Condoms During Carnival?

Mardi Gras mask and beads (123 RF)

Mardi Gras mask and beads (123 RF)

Today is Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday, if you prefer)! It’s a day of revelry before Lent’s 40 somber days take over. Celebrations are held all over the world, but none are more famous than Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s capital. There’s music, costumes, and dancing in the streets, but also a lot of unprotected sexual contact.

In years past, Brazil has been good about keeping those who choose to be sexually active during Carnival safe. The government passes out free condoms during the celebration as an incentive to wrap it up (which eliminates the “I didn’t have a condom” excuse for going without) and to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. And the number of condoms is  always large: In 2015, estimates ranged from 70M to 120M condoms passed out for Carnival.

But what about 2016? I couldn’t find any data on how many condoms Brazil would be passing out this year. I’ve found news on how the country is alerting citizens to the Zika virus and how it’s spread, but no hard (haha) numbers on the condom factor. This is very surprising, given how the number is generally publicly known before Carnival even starts.

You’d think that with the Zika virus in play, the Brazilian government would want to pass out more condoms than usual (the number tends to baseline around 70-75M within recent years). But I haven’t seen anything on how, or even if, the Zika crisis has influenced the number of condoms that’ll be distributed. This is interesting to note, given that Brazil currently has the highest rate of Zika infections.

I’ll update if I eventually find out how many condoms Brazil will give out to revelers. I really hope to find that out.

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