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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Brazil Will Pass Out Free Condoms During Carnival

Mardi Gras mask and beads (123 RF)

Mardi Gras mask and beads (123 RF)

Happy Mardi Gras! Known in English as Fat Tuesday (and just in time for National Condom Week), today celebrates casting off repression, upending social norms and indulging in vices before the Christian season of Lent begins (when enjoying all earthly pleasures ceases for 40 days). Much like Halloween, masks and costumes, dancing and lust in the air figure prominently.

Brazil has made Carnival an international destination, and it’s legendary for a reason. Several cities throw parades, led by various samba schools. Many foreigners fly in for the multi-day party (spanning the Friday before to Ash Wednesday at noon), making Carnival the country’s biggest tourism booster.

Naturally, when the shackles of convention are thrown aside, a lot more spontaneous sex occurs (because when in Rio…). But the Brazilian government is always prepared for this: they give out free condoms.

This year, they’ll hand out 70M condoms throughout the country. They’ve done this for years, handing out 65M in 2009, 55M in 2010, 89M in 2011, 3M in 2012, 73M in 2013 and 104M in 2014.

For visual learners, here’s a decade-long progression in line-graph form:

Brazil's Condom Distribution during Carnival, 2005-2015

Brazil’s Condom Distribution during Carnival, 2005-2015

As you can see, the number of condoms distributed during Carnival has tended to baseline around 70-75M in recent years (aside from 2012, whose 3M looks incorrect, to say the least).

Last year, the Brazilian government estimated that 2M+ people were on the streets at any given time during Carnival. Surely attendees can find at least one person to hook up with during the popular “blocos” (street-wide parties).