The Pope said condoms ‘MAY’ aggravate the problem and did not make any claims to have evidence to support his statement. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
As usual everybody is after the messenger, and forgetting the message.
Let’s face it 85%, of HIV transmission is through sexual contact. HIV is growing because people are having more sex, heterosexual, homosexual, underage, illicit, married couples, you name it! He is just saying ‘less sex, less HIV’.
Abstinence protects from a behaviour that puts you at risk. Fidelity reduces the risk. A large number of cases of HIV are children and pregnant women, a domain in which the use of condoms falls short. Condoms have a strong place as contraceptives with a dual role. In Africa, unmet needs for contraception are extremely high, many pregnancies are unwanted. If people can’t use condoms for contraception, why do you think they will use them to prevent HIV, especially when millions of these people do not even know their HIV status.
The vast majority of people living with HIV are very poor and have less than a dollar a day. On average a pack of 4 condoms costs a quarter of a dollar. Nobody wants to spend more than a quarter of their budget on sex!! The logical (sad) solution will be to reduce the amount of sex you are having. People don’t even have food to eat and everywhere they go they are told to buy condoms. The choice they’ll make is more than evident.
Occasionally there a HIV programs with free distribution of condoms. For how long will this go on? And what do these people do when these programs end or when the local shop is just out of stock!! In some programs girls are told to go around with condoms so that they don’t get HIV if they are raped. Seriously, who goes out oh her home thinking, “Hmm, I might just get raped today!! Let me get a condom.” How can we possibly want to solve a criminal problem like rape, with condoms? I think we should recognize the limits of condoms.
Despite all the publicity and wonderful adverts and distribution campaigns, HIV is still looking us in the face. More money is poured in but it is not proportional to the results. With the present economic depression, funders are going to start vouching for less expensive techniques. Abstinence has always been more culturally acceptable in sub Saharan Africa and virginity used to be a requirement for marriage. Unfortunately, this is not the case nowadays. It may be a difficult practice in the modern world, but people have the right to know it can be done and that it works! You don’t have to buy or learn anything new. We should face the facts. Condoms are the easy way out, but are not always available, affordable or usable by people who need them the most.
I don’t believe the outcry following the Pope’s statement is justified. If we fear that he has a lot of power and influence, maybe we should side with him and make his message stronger, instead of contributing to the transmission of conflicting messages.
Sometimes instead of buying raincoats we need to stay out of the rain.
Lawrence is also a medical doctor and currently studying for an MPH at the Hebrew University in Hadassah.