Condoms Still Available in Gaza Strip Despite Imposed Blockade, Officials Say
Israeli officials recently said they will continue allowing condoms into the Gaza Strip despite the imposed blockade on the region, IRIN/PlusNews reports. The officials said the decision is part of efforts by United Nations agencies and Palestinian organizations to maintain programs for family planning and the prevention of diseases, including as HIV/AIDS.
Some advocates speculated that the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas last year would affect the programs, but "such fears have proved to be largely unfounded," IRIN/PlusNews reports. According to IRIN/PlusNews, the government's programs usually offer contraceptives only to married couples or people in special circumstances, including those with sexually transmitted infections. Although condoms are somewhat less accessible than before Hamas took over the region, they still are available in shops and public places. An unnamed aid worker from an international agency in the Gaza Strip said that "condoms are available through planned parenting programs, run by international and local agencies."
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 36 people are known to be living with HIV/AIDS in the Gaza Strip. In February, the Palestinian Authority announced that all antiretroviral drugs will be part of the national drug list and provided at no cost. Asad Ramlawe of the health ministry's HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis department said the ministry, as well as the Ministry of Religion, conducts "monthly meetings on HIV and plan[s] educational campaigns." Ziad Yaish, a Jerusalem-based advocacy officer with UNFPA, said, "We are trying to educate parents and to work with religious leaders." In addition, the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association trains high school and college students as "peer educators" to inform their friends about various health issues. Amina Stavridis, director of PFPPA, said, "We focus on 16- to 18-year-olds and university students, especially those who will go abroad to study"