Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Acting White: Pope Claims Condoms Increase AIDS

Pope Benedict wants more Catholics, I get this. Africa is a growth region with a lot of uncommitted delegates (souls), so no surprise that he would be there making sure the Muslims, Hindus, and Mormons do not run off with the place. After all, the church has expenses too. Right here in Oakland, with a brand-spanking new cathedral ‘of the light’ that cost $200 million, we are faced with a restless bunch of diocesans in the dark trying to pay their bills.

I may not agree, but, all things being equal, I understand why the pontiff does not like condoms. Any shortage of little baby Catholics grows into an eventual shortage of grown-up worshipers with jobs to match tithing obligations. It all comes back to managing expense to the promise land – God loves accountants.

Of course what I do not understand is how the pontiff can challenge the truth that condoms prevent the spread of AIDS, especially to people who have yet to buy into his abstinence line. This is like giving away hymnals before people actually show up to your church to sing. And if they try some early off-key practice singing at home, then they die. Oops. My bad. I meant to say keep the books, but hold off on the singing until Sunday, when you get the full story.

It seems that in order to maximize the number of long-term Catholics, the Holy See would want the future faithful to immediately switch to safe sex, saving the missionary playbook on how to 'play', as catholicized monogamous couples, for when they are firmly in the church’s dogmatic clutches. I’m sure the Lord Almighty can distinguish between condom use to prevent the epidemic spread of a deadly disease, and 'jimmy-hat' haberdashery that limits the number new babies by faithful hetero-couples. So I ask, how come the Pope cannot make this distinction, in order to help save these poor Africans he so fervently desires for his flock?

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

I hate to say this, but I feel like the Church establish has, in its obsession with perpetuating doctrine, lost increasing touch with the reality of human life.

How a responsible authority figure can in good faith (no pun intended) recommend against condom usage is beyond me.

I do believe that part of the problem is that the population of Cardinals is becoming increasingly isolated from the rank-and-file Catholic people. Priest, lay leaders, and nuns who are working in communities would be better prepared, in my opinion, to serve in position of high authority. The deeply hierarchical organization of the church prevents this, however, and so the Pope and other leaders are consistently chosen from among those who have the least daily contact with the laity.

Not good. The result is that Papal decisions and proclamations are being made in a vacuum.

Satyrblade said...

An organization that selects a former kid Nazi as God's "infallible" representitive on earth has bigger problems than condom use.

And the payoffs for clerical child molesters don't help, either.

It's whole different ballgame, I guess, when you can't just torture and burn the "heretics" to death anymore. Poor Catholicism - what's a church to do?

Maybe... oh, I dunno, follow the words of the Christ?

Hmmm... too hard. Maybe just build more churches and issue more pontificates. Sure, THAT'LL fix things!

Unknown said...

I don't think you understand the Catholic church. The very essence of this organization is its steadfast adherence to ancient traditions and values.

It is very common in America, where so many have thrown away their nationality and heritage to unite under one flag and one constitution, to expect the rest of the world to do the same. As a country created only 200 years ago, it's difficult for most Americans to even fathom an entity that has existed in relatively intact form for two millennia.

Personally, I think that all religions are outdated superstitions that exist only to propagate themselves and only serve to assuage our fear of the unknown. But if a religion has any integrity, it shouldn't change in an attempt to get more followers. Their goal is to make Africa more like Rome, not the other way around.

Remember, this is an organization that held services exclusively in Latin long after lay people stopped speaking the language. You have to hold a certain level of a respect for an organization that has maintained so much of its history and tradition through the ages. And plenty of people have taken issue with certain aspects of Catholicism. They are now called Protestants.

The day the Catholic church becomes a "progressive" organization, I fully expect Stonehenge to be bulldozed for a new Wal-Mart and the Pyramids to be converted into condominiums. Is nothing sacred?

Dennis Mangan said...

Wow, the pope is a Nazi, what a puerile level of argument, aside from being slander. Perhaps y'all might even dare to take the pope at his word, namely that he really believes what he says and has no ulterior motives. Besides, there's nothing stopping Africans or anyone else from using condoms now, so when are they going to start? On a continent in which some people believe that sex with a virgin cures AIDS, and which has the country with the world's highest rates of rape and murder, no papal pronouncement will have much effect.

James C. Collier said...

I.L: Pointing out Benedict's confusion of words, philosophy, and medical sense, based on his recent visit to Africa, encourages people, especially my Catholic friends, to consider their positions of support for church activities on the continent. Calling him a liar is a personal attack, rather than a rebuttal to specific actions and the situation, and discourages all, but his most ardent detractors, from cooly considering what I have to say.

Anonymous said...

Aw aight, JCC, I can agree with your stance. Maybe I should work on my people skills more, lol.

Anonymous said...

The Pope is right condoms are only around 80 percent effective they give people a false sense of security. Lastly, why are my tax dollars being wasted on free condoms to people of Africa?

Anonymous said...

The anti-condom approach may be related just a bit to the fact that the average latex condom as holes 5 times larger than the size of the average virus.

On the spiritual side, condoms foster a free-sex attitude which contradicts the morality of the church based on objective truth, not based on personal opinions. These objective truths come from God, and Heaven is not a democracy. You won't get to vote or file your personal opinion on fornication, i.e. pre-marital/extra-marital sex.

Anonymous said...

So here is the argument as I understand it:

All else being equal, the Pope would probably agree that an act of sex with a condom is safer than an act of sex without a condom.

But all else is not equal. Telling people that condoms make for safe sex increases the amount of sex, safe sex AND unsafe sex.

Hence, making condoms available leads to more cases of AIDS.

Here is a Harvard Scientist saying it: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/AR2009032702825.html

The Pope May Be Right

By Edward C. Green
Sunday, March 29, 2009; Page A15

When Pope Benedict XVI commented this month that condom distribution isn't helping, and may be worsening, the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, he set off a firestorm of protest. Most non-Catholic commentary has been highly critical of the pope. A cartoon in the Philadelphia Inquirer, reprinted in The Post, showed the pope somewhat ghoulishly praising a throng of sick and dying Africans: "Blessed are the sick, for they have not used condoms."

Yet, in truth, current empirical evidence supports him.

We liberals who work in the fields of global HIV/AIDS and family planning take terrible professional risks if we side with the pope on a divisive topic such as this. The condom has become a symbol of freedom and -- along with contraception -- female emancipation, so those who question condom orthodoxy are accused of being against these causes. My comments are only about the question of condoms working to stem the spread of AIDS in Africa's generalized epidemics -- nowhere else.

In 2003, Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California conducted a condom effectiveness study for the United Nations' AIDS program and found no evidence of condoms working as a primary HIV-prevention measure in Africa. UNAIDS quietly disowned the study. (The authors eventually managed to publish their findings in the quarterly Studies in Family Planning.) Since then, major articles in other peer-reviewed journals such as the Lancet, Science and BMJ have confirmed that condoms have not worked as a primary intervention in the population-wide epidemics of Africa. In a 2008 article in Science called "Reassessing HIV Prevention" 10 AIDS experts concluded that "consistent condom use has not reached a sufficiently high level, even after many years of widespread and often aggressive promotion, to produce a measurable slowing of new infections in the generalized epidemics of Sub-Saharan Africa."

Let me quickly add that condom promotion has worked in countries such as Thailand and Cambodia, where most HIV is transmitted through commercial sex and where it has been possible to enforce a 100 percent condom use policy in brothels (but not outside of them). In theory, condom promotions ought to work everywhere. And intuitively, some condom use ought to be better than no use. But that's not what the research in Africa shows.

Why not?

One reason is "risk compensation." That is, when people think they're made safe by using condoms at least some of the time, they actually engage in riskier sex.

Another factor is that people seldom use condoms in steady relationships because doing so would imply a lack of trust. (And if condom use rates go up, it's possible we are seeing an increase of casual or commercial sex.) However, it's those ongoing relationships that drive Africa's worst epidemics. In these, most HIV infections are found in general populations, not in high-risk groups such as sex workers, gay men or persons who inject drugs. And in significant proportions of African populations, people have two or more regular sex partners who overlap in time. In Botswana, which has one of the world's highest HIV rates, 43 percent of men and 17 percent of women surveyed had two or more regular sex partners in the previous year.

These ongoing multiple concurrent sex partnerships resemble a giant, invisible web of relationships through which HIV/AIDS spreads. A study in Malawi showed that even though the average number of sexual partners was only slightly over two, fully two-thirds of this population was interconnected through such networks of overlapping, ongoing relationships.

So what has worked in Africa? Strategies that break up these multiple and concurrent sexual networks -- or, in plain language, faithful mutual monogamy or at least reduction in numbers of partners, especially concurrent ones. "Closed" or faithful polygamy can work as well.

In Uganda's early, largely home-grown AIDS program, which began in 1986, the focus was on "Sticking to One Partner" or "Zero Grazing" (which meant remaining faithful within a polygamous marriage) and "Loving Faithfully." These simple messages worked. More recently, the two countries with the highest HIV infection rates, Swaziland and Botswana, have both launched campaigns that discourage people from having multiple and concurrent sexual partners.

Don't misunderstand me; I am not anti-condom. All people should have full access to condoms, and condoms should always be a backup strategy for those who will not or cannot remain in a mutually faithful relationship. This was a key point in a 2004 "consensus statement" published and endorsed by some 150 global AIDS experts, including representatives the United Nations, World Health Organization and World Bank. These experts also affirmed that for sexually active adults, the first priority should be to promote mutual fidelity. Moreover, liberals and conservatives agree that condoms cannot address challenges that remain critical in Africa such as cross-generational sex, gender inequality and an end to domestic violence, rape and sexual coercion.

Surely it's time to start providing more evidence-based AIDS prevention in Africa.

The writer is a senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

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