Argentina's Health Ministry has called for tenders to purchase a large assortment of items, including 10,000 wooden human penises for educational purposes, it was reported.
Other needs to be fulfilled at the State's expense are 10,000 dispensers of condoms, which will be manufactured in such a way that they can be hung in public buildings and 10 thousand turquoise briefcases, stamped and with ribbons to the tone, together with the replicas of the male genitalia packed in one hundred boxes of one hundred units each, according to the ministry's website.
Also among the condition to be fulfilled by bidders is that the sculptures be neatly polished and measure around 17 centimeters.
The items will reportedly be used for sexual education activities and will entail a disbursement of AR $ 13,371,100 (the US $ 138,964, at the official exchange rate).
As explained in resolution 35 of 2021, the request for the materials was made by the Directorate of Response to HIV, STIs, Viral Hepatitis and Tuberculosis and will be ”intended for the general population and health professionals, to be distributed in Primary Health Care Centers (CAPS), Health Regions, Provincial and Municipal Programs and other establishments throughout the country.”
Despite the technical explanations and justifications, the news went virals and memes filled social media Friday as soon as it became known.
Access to Health Secretary Sandra Marcela Tirado had given the green light on June 24 to a request from the Directorate of response to HIV, STIs, viral Hepatitis and Tuberculosis for the purchase of materials to promote sexual health, which included the purchase of 10,000 polished wood penises, which was spotted by the Buenos Aires daily La Nación and made public Friday.
Through resolution 35 of 2021, Tirado indicated that the purchase of “the requested supplies will ensure wide availability of promotional materials whose purpose is to raise awareness and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and other ITS within the framework of Law No. 23,798.″
Tirado then authorized “the call for Public Tender No. 80-0023-LPU21, for the acquisition of promotional materials, consisting of condom dispensers, wooden penises and briefcases, requested by the Directorate of response to HIV, STI, Viral Hepatitis and Tuberculosis, intended for the general population and health professionals, to be distributed in Primary Health Care Centers (CAPS), Health Regions, Provincial and Municipal Programs and other establishments throughout the country.”
The tender was published July 1 and the deadline for bids was last Tuesday. Four companies are vying to supply the Argentine government with the product.
Meanwhile, Minister Carla Vizzotti is on a tour of England, trying to reach new agreements and exchanges regarding anticoronavirus policies.
But the Ministry nevertheless explained to La Nación that “In response to preliminary studies that reveal a deterioration in the indicators related to sexually transmitted diseases during the pandemic, the Ministry of Health of the Nation calls for a public tender (0023/2021) for the acquisition, within the framework of the implementation of Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) and health strategies to ensure compliance, of educational kits with materials for conducting training.”
“The educational kits for promotion and prevention contain condoms, a dispenser for accessibility of condoms and briefcases where the elements for training are transported, including wooden penises, lubricating gel and communication materials [...] The materials are intended for teams that work in the field, whether in health, education or community institutions,” the Ministry said in a press release given to La Nación.
No province buys this type of input. The planned monthly distribution is 800 kits. The material is distributed through provincial programs. Among the bidders for the acquisition of the kits, there is a maximum offer of 14 million and another smaller offer, for 4 million. In case of acquiring them, the Ministry of Health will opt for the lowest offer, the statement went on.
“The amount to be acquired —which was consolidated from the distributions made in previous years— is because they are distributed to around 5,200 health providers and to other government teams and organizations that work with the ESI (sexual education), buying is also related to the possibility of taking preventive policies to as many places as possible by placing these resources close to people, including civil society organizations and other government agencies in the preventive response to HIV and other STIs,” the Ministry explained.
The release also specified that “in preliminary studies, a decrease in the use of condoms is observed during the pandemic, for this reason, it is necessary to plan intervention policies with educational measures, promotion and post-pandemic assistance. Furthermore, in our country, more than 98% of infections are caused by unprotected sex.”
“The current situation in our country concerning the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, shows an increase in diagnoses, especially in the cases of adolescents and young people. All this determines the need for policies of prevention in Sexual Health, sustained and of national impact [...] In relation to the use of condoms, so that their use is adequate, training and health education are carried out for young people and adolescents. This is why material is needed so that, through Comprehensive Sex Education, the proper use is transmitted,” the authorities detailed.