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Page last updated at 06:40 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 07:40 UK

Brazil makes 'rainforest' condoms

By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

A man harvests rubber at a rubber plantation in Xapuri, Brazil (file picture)
Producing local condoms will help preserve the world's largest rainforest

The Brazilian government has begun producing condoms using rubber from trees in the Amazon.

The health ministry says the move will help preserve the largest rainforest in the world.

It will also cut dependence on imported contraceptives, which are given away to fight Aids.

The Brazilian government has one of the biggest programmes in the world to distribute free condoms in the fight against the disease.

The new state-run factory is in the north-western state of Acre, and will initially produce 100 million condoms a year, which will be known by the name Natex.

Officials believe that not only will it generate income for Amazon residents, but it will involve using a product which is widely available and can be obtained without destroying large areas of the rainforest.

The latex will come from the Chico Mendes reserve, an area named after the famous conservationist and rubber tapper who was shot dead in 1988 by local ranchers.

The factory will benefit at least 500 families and provide 150 jobs in the town of Xapuri which has a population of around 15,000 people.

The health ministry says the condoms will be the only ones in the world made of latex harvested from a tropical forest, and will reduce the reliance on foreign imports.

The Brazilian government says it is the world's largest single buyer of condoms, purchasing more than a billion of the contraceptives in recent years to give away free as part of the country's national programme to combat Aids.

The policy, which is at its most visible during the Carnival period, has often been criticised by Catholic bishops who say it only encourages promiscuity.


SEE ALSO
Brazil to subsidise contraception
29 May 07 |  Americas
Brazil to break Aids drug patent
04 May 07 |  Americas
Brazil plans massive condom drive
01 Dec 05 |  Americas

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