Doubts About Condoms
Science Questioning Their Efficacy in Halting HIV/AIDS
NAIROBI, Kenya, JUNE 28, 2004 (Zenit) - The Catholic Church has long been criticized for opposing condom promotion as part of AIDS prevention programs and "safe sex" campaigns. Yet opposition to condoms does not mean the Church does not care about AIDS. Last year Kenya's health minister, Charity Ngilu, praised the Church for its role in fighting HIV and AIDS, the Catholic Information Service for Africa reported Aug. 17.
Ngilu commended the Catholic Church for its focus in three key areas: prevention through awareness-raising and promotion of behavior change; care and treatment of the people living with HIV/AIDS; and social and economic support for those infected and affected by the scourge.
And recently published information is showing the wisdom of the Church's refusal to back condoms. The journal Studies in Family Planning in its March issue published a wide-ranging review of scientific literature on the subject of condoms.
Authored by Norman Hearst, a professor at the University of California, and Sanny Chen, an epidemiologist with the San Francisco Department of Health, the article "Condom Promotion for AIDS Prevention in the Developing World: Is It Working?" notes that "Measuring condom efficacy is nearly impossible." A commonly accepted figure for their efficacy is 90%, the article affirms.
But this is not enough for condoms to be effective in AIDS prevention. For example, the articles notes: "In many sub-Saharan African countries, high HIV transmission rates have continued despite high rates of condom use." The authors admit that "no clear examples have emerged yet of a country that has turned back a generalized epidemic primarily by means of condom promotion."
Uganda's noted success in reducing the prevalence of AIDS was due a program that focused on delaying sexual activity among adolescents, promoting abstinence, encouraging faithfulness to a single partner, and condom use. Condom promotion was last in order of importance, notes the article.
Hearst and Chen explain that increased use of condoms was not responsible for the decline in AIDS among Ugandans. "The main cause of falling incidence in Uganda was a substantial drop in numbers of casual sex partners," they wrote. Their article also attributes falling HIV prevalence among pregnant women in parts of Zambia and Tanzania to reductions in numbers of sexual partners.
In another article, a group of experts on HIV stressed the need for greater emphasis in changing sexual behavior. "It seems obvious," said an article in the April 10 issue of the British Medical Journal, "but there would be no global AIDS pandemic were it not for multiple sexual partnerships." The article was entitled "Partner reduction is crucial for balanced 'ABC' approach to HIV prevention."
The authors explained that a high number of sexual partners is "a crucial determinant in the spread of sexually transmitted infections." As well, HIV transmission is facilitated by the presence of other sexual infections, which in turn are propagated by having multiple partners.
The article also notes that while condoms were credited for Thailand's reduction in the high levels of HIV infection, their use was also accompanied "by a striking reduction" in the numbers of sexual partners.
Regarding the campaign in Uganda, the authors state that it is difficult to prove a direct causal link between the promotion of monogamy and the fall in HIV rates, though "it seems likely that it was critical to the success."
The article observed that, despite the evidence of how partner reduction and monogamy can reduce the spread of HIV, many programs give these means little attention. "We believe it is imperative to begin including (and rigorously evaluating) messages about mutual fidelity and partner reduction in ongoing activities to change sexual behavior," the authors commented.
Not so safe
Doubts have also been cast on the reliance of condoms for "safe sex" programs. In the United States more than 15 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur every year, according to Dr. Joe McIlhaney Jr., president of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas.
Writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last Aug. 25, McIlhaney noted that the consequences of relying on condoms can be grave. One widely prevalent STD, the human papillomavirus (HPV), causes more than 90% of cervical cancer which, in 2001, killed an estimated 4,100 women in the United States.
"Based on the science and the science alone, there is only one conclusion: Condoms do not make sex safe enough," McIlhaney commented. "While condoms can reduce some risk, they still often leave individuals vulnerable to STD infection."
His arguments received support in a report to the U.S. Congress by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year. The centers' director, Dr. Julie Gerberding, said that the best way to avoid HPV "is by having only one uninfected partner," the Washington Times reported Feb. 3.
The report recommended that men and women not in monogamous relationships should reduce the number of sexual partners. The report also noted that most studies show that condoms do not prevent the spread of HPV.
Abstinence promotion even received support in a long article published June 13 in the New York Times Magazine. Written by Helen Epstein, a visiting research scholar at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University, it observed that many efforts aimed at stopping the spread of HIV have had disappointing results.
Epstein explained that ignoring the need to promote fidelity in sexual relations "may well have undermined efforts to fight the epidemic." She noted: "Government planning documents, United Nations agency reports, AIDS awareness campaigns and AIDS education curriculums are strangely silent on the subject."
A case in point is the situation in Botswana. The Washington Times on June 17 described how Tsetsele Fantan, leader of the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships, sponsored by pharmaceutical giant Merck & Company and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, felt embarrassed on taking a visitor to a primary school, whose walls had posters about using condoms and whose children sang songs about prophylactics.
"At that age, they should have been singing about 'saying no to sex,'" said Fantan. "The message should have been about abstinence. We need to focus our message better."
Kgomotso Ntsatsi, who directs the Christian AIDS Intervention Program that promotes abstinence, explained that she needs more financial support to get that message out, the article reported. "Condoms were the first thing people thought of. People never stopped to see if it was working," she said. "It eroded our culture terribly. Condoms brought so much unfaithfulness and so much early pregnancy. Now it looks like everyone is promiscuous."
In fact, there are signs that more governments are waking up to the need to promote abstinence. Recently, Zambia banned the distribution of condoms in schools, BBC reported March 15. Education Minister Andrew Mulenga explained that condoms were encouraging young people to have premarital sex. Some 120,000 Zambians die from AIDS each year, according to U.N. figures.
BBC quoted Mulenga as saying that students "should be advised to abstain from sex as a measure to fight the disease instead of being urged to use condoms which promote immorality."
The Catholic Church's opposition to condoms is not based on medical studies. Rather, it stems from a profound analysis of the need to integrate sexuality in an exclusive and permanent relationship open to life in the context of marriage. The wisdom of this view is becoming increasingly clearer.
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000
Condoms, HIV, AIDS, Sex, Safe
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- Many Blessings! Family celebrates 100 children
- Daily Reading for Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 HD Video
- Daily Readings for Saturday, July 22, 2017
- Video captures moment killer quake strikes in Greece
- St. Mary Magdalene: Saint of the Day for Saturday, July 22, 2017
- Statues of the Virgin Mary triumphantly return to Iraq, after defeat ...
- Vatican says report on abuse in Germany shows progress in fight ...
- Daily Reading for Monday, July 24th, 2017 HD
- Daily Reading for Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 HD
- Deadbeat Republicans, do your job or GET OUT! HD
- Daily Reading for Saturday, July 22nd, 2017 HD