Response to my blog on “AIDS in Costa Rica?” (from la gente in Costa Rica)

February 5, 2009

Recently, I wrote a blog on, “AIDS in Costa Rica?”: stating my disconcertment that in a country with legalized prostitution, where one (usually) has to BUY condoms at the farmacia, with a thriving tourist industry, home to many Gringo expats, as well as other Central Americans, with (some) churches that do not advocate the use of condoms, that I have yet to see a single AIDS poster, bill board, condom-dispenser at local night clubs and bars, or hear an HIV radio public service announcement since I arrived here almost 3 weeks ago.  And I have been all over San Jose, Quepos, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, all over Guanacaste, Montezuma, and my new home in Nosara.  I have not made it to the Caribbean coast yet.


I expected some inflamed responses because I was insinuating that someone is not doing their job.  Editors of well-known papers started sending me the national HIV/AIDS statistics, as reported on various sites, from the Costa Rican Ministerio de Salud to UNAIDS.  If you were to do an internet search yourself on “HIV/AIDS in Costa Rica”, you will see the wide variety of statistics.  Who is accurate? 


To me, which stats are accurate is not that important.  One has to keep in mind that the statistics are based on people who have had the courage, need, intelligence, or self-worth (or concern for their children’s health) to actually be tested.  The REAL question is how many Costa Ricans and Expats (and tourists!) have actually had an HIV test?!  Of course, the statistics will be low when only a microscopic fraction of the population is actually getting tested!  According to UNAIDS and WHO half of people spreading HIV do not know they are HIV, because they have not been regularly tested. (ref:


The important fact is that, regardless of the current (varied) statistics, the factors that lubricate the transmission of HIV are ripe in Costa Rica.  In other words, here in Costa Rica, without a comprehensive, unified HIV/AIDS/sexually-transmitted disease awareness, prevention, education, and HIV testing campaign, Costa Rica and its visitors are extremely vulnerable to be exposed to HIV, unknowingly.  The conditions I am referring to:


  • Legalized prostitution
  • Active tourism industry
  • Gringo and other Central American Expatriates living and working here
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Limited access to free condoms
  • Catholic Church does not advocate the use of condoms
  • Lack of sexual education in schools
  • Sexually active youth (average age 15) without sexual education
  • High level of teen pregnancies
  • International business
  • Migrant labor to the cities (from rural areas)
  • Inter-Central American transport systems
  • Mercenary ports on both coasts
  • Poor public (especially, health) infrastructure in some regions
  • Poor education systems in some regions
  • Discrimination of homosexuals
  • Social, political and economic stigma and discrimination of persons living with HIV/AIDS (and their loved ones)



These conditions are not special to Costa Rica.  These are the same conditions that fuelled the spread of HIV throughout Africa, India, Europe, and the United States.  All I am saying is that there needs to be a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, unified HIV/AIDS awareness and education campaign BEFORE the statistics become higher.  I am speaking of prevention.

One Response to “Response to my blog on “AIDS in Costa Rica?” (from la gente in Costa Rica)”

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