Venezuelan women opt for subdermal implants due to high costs of contraceptive methods

Venezuelan women opt for subdermal implants due to high costs of contraceptive methods


A publication of a WhatsApp status about a special day to carry out the application of subdermal implants rolled through Táchira state two weeks ago and it managed to gather more than 200 adult and adolescent women in the family planning room of the Central Hospital of San Cristóbal, who attended from various municipalities looking for mechanisms to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Anggy Polanco // Correspondent

All came prepared with gloves, a needle and other medical supplies that were requested as necessary, but only about 130 people would have a chance. A large part of those consulted expressed that they attended this event because contraceptive devices have become very expensive in private clinics.

Zuleika Pineda, 24 years old, said that she plans to have a family when she finishes her university studies and the conditions are right, but in her opinion, it is increasingly difficult for Venezuelan women to access contraceptive systems, buy pills or injections at “dollarized” (prices set in U.S. dollars) prices. For this reason, she prefers the implant that lasts about three years and has a high reliability.

“It is not only bringing a child into the world, there are many diseases as well. A child takes care of himself, but a disease takes his whole life,” commented the student, who considered that this type of events should be extended, because there are many young people who currently have put taboos aside and proceed to take care of their reproductive health themselves.

A 17-year-old teenager who attended the conference stated that she takes care of herself so as not to bring unwanted children into the world, but being a student, it is difficult for her to buy contraceptive pills. For this reason, she preferred to resort to this method.

“We girls today have a different type of mentality and we want to take care of ourselves, meet our goals, I just graduated from high school and I am going to study Dentistry. My parents accept it and are proud,” said the young woman.

In Venezuela, not all contraceptive methods are available

The executive director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights, (Cedesex), Suzany González Zambrano, explained that access to contraceptive methods has improved in pharmacies and private clinics compared to 2016 and 2017. However, these do not carry all the necessary contraceptive methods, since there is an almost absolute shortage of patches, hormonal rings, and others.

“In the public healthcare system, according to the survey carried out by civil society organizations, there is an almost absolute shortage of contraceptive methods. Some surveys reveal shortages between 80% and 90%, and in some areas up to 100% shortages of contraceptive methods in the national public healthcare system. That being said, women’s effective access to contraceptive methods is incipient,” commented the human rights defender.

“Although some methods are available in pharmacies, the economic situation prevents women from acquiring them. Also, in the border areas there is more access to diverse methods compared to other states, because many women have the opportunity go to Colombia to procure contraceptive methods,” explained Suzany González. In addition, there are many organizations working with sexual and reproductive healthcare in these areas through conferences.

Regarding the part of sexual education, she indicated that as of 2018 in Venezuela, pedagogical guidelines were adopted to prevent early pregnancy in adolescence with the cooperation of international organizations. This has allowed teachers to be trained in these subject, but it is not being taught in the classrooms for various reasons: structural, religious and cultural.

STDs and STIs are on the rise

Samatha Medina, a gynecologist residing in Tachira State, explained that these events on one hand are positive because they reach low-income patients who do not have the option of going to private healthcare centers due to the cost of subdermal devices, which can cost up to $120.00, and thus a number of unwanted pregnancies are avoided.

On the other hand, as a disadvantage, she mentioned that the patients to whom these devices are applied are not medically studied during these events, and the World Health Organization establishes eligibility criteria for each contraceptive method. So, a large number of patients then need the prematurely removal of the implants, because they have complications such as venous insufficiency, headaches, exacerbated spotting (bleeding that does not correspond to menstruation), among other symptoms.

“We must take into account that it is necessary to educate the patient in sexual health, because the subdermal implant will prevent pregnancy, but it does not prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), because in recent years in our state this rate has been on a sharp increase,” warned the specialist.

Medina pointed out that they estimate that between 90% and 95% of the population have Sexually Transmitted Infections, mainly Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is the leading cause of cervical cancer worldwide, which means that this population of young women who have implants and Copper Ts, are more vulnerable to cervical cancer in about 10 years. Furthermore, in Táchira there is a high incidence of gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV, the specialist explained.

The woman explained that the only thing that worries many young women is avoiding a pregnancy, but they forget about transmitted diseases and do not use condoms.

However, she highlighted that with these workshops that are carried out thanks to contributions from international organizations in public healthcare centers, the rate of pregnancies in adolescents and girls is being reduced.

There was a time when they noted with great concern the pregnancies in girls even 12 years old, since in ‘Tachirense’ society there are still many taboos and little sexual education for adolescents.

“It is worrisome because the body at this age is not ready for these changes and can present many complications, because it is immature for a pregnancy process,” said Medina.