Brazil has the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in Latin America accounting for a third of all HIV cases. A joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) revealed that as of 2007, approximately 1.6 million people in Latin America are HIV positive.
For this reason, Brazil has become one of the major condom users in the world with its government implementing a rigorous campaign for condom use, HIV testing, sex education and AIDS prevention each year. The UNAIDS reports that between 1998 and 2005, condom usage in the country has increased by 50 percent.
But amidst this alarming situation, there’s one notable development in this South American country that will surely help its sexually active populace as well as its Amazon rainforest considered the largest tropical rainforest in the world. Brazil has put up its very own condom factory in the northwestern town of Xapuri. The plant is expected to help provide jobs to numerous poor rubber tappers and help preserve the Amazon rainforest.
Brazil’s Health Ministry officials say the 10-million pound condom factory will produce 100 million condoms every year. These contraceptives will then be given out to the people for free as part of the government’s anti-AIDS program.
Small time rubber tappers will be tapped to draw latex from huge and towering jungle trees located in the Chico Mendes forest reserve. These rubber tappers are the ones who protect the trees in the rainforest thereby giving them the opportunity to earn a living.
The forest reserve identified is named after Chico Mendes, a famous rubber tapper who hogged the international limelight for being involved in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. He was shot dead by cattle ranchers in his residence in Xapuri in December 1988.
According to the Brazilian Health Ministry, the condom factory is sure to benefit some 500 families of rubber tappers and will generate around 150 jobs for the town of Xapuri which has a population of 15,000. To date, rubber tappers in the state of Acre where the factory is situated already manufactures approximately 6.2 million tons of latex each year.
The discovery of rubber in Brazil dates back to 1842 when Nelson Goodyear, an American, invented the process known as vulcanization of rubber. The country used to enjoy a rubber boom but to the disadvantage of the Amazon rainforest. Brazil’s rubber supply is mostly used in making condoms and tires. But thanks to some concerned companies and organizations, the country’s rubber plantations have improved and expanded resulting in higher production in recent years.
But with the presence of the factory, condom production is expected to be further increased by 500,000 tons on a yearly basis. Brazil presently imports majority of the condoms it markets to people despite the huge amount of latex supply in the Amazon. Government officials there are hoping that apart from preserving the rainforest, the new condom factory will lessen their dependence on imports from Asia. In 2007, Brazil distributed some 120 million condoms for free in line with its massive drive to fight AIDS.