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Monday, April 13, 2009



I do have a problem with the Popes statement, assuming he was translated and quoted accurately. Condoms are not necessarily making the problem worse and saying so is counter-intuitive. But, considering the Catholic church's stance against all birth control, his statement is hardly unexpected.

Drawing conclusions from statistics is always iffy business. This may be the case re. condom use/distribution in the fight against the spread of aids in Africa.

We do know that condoms, when used properly, will stop the transfer of the aids virus during intercourse. So how then to explain no reduction or even increases in the incidence of aids cases when condoms were distributed widely and the use was advocated for years? Perhaps it's a bit like pouring water on a fire that has a never-ending source of fuel. The fire continues to burn and may increase depending on the balance of water to fuel. But, absent the water, the fire would grow even greater. Which is to say condoms are not necessarily a failure in fighting aids or a cause of its spread, they just aren't the whole answer.

The fuels firing Africa's aids pandemic are many and no doubt vary by country. To name a few: South Africa basically denied the existence of the aids problem for decades. In many countries, there is widespread ignorance of aids prevention born out of illiteracy in turn born out of poverty. There are male dominated cultures that deny property rights to women meaning widows and other single women are often forced into prostitution to support themselves and their children.

That committed relationships do curtail the spread of aids is certainly true. But it will require much more than the Pope calling for: "...a humanization of sexuality and a spiritual renewal which implies new behaviors" and it will require more than condom distribution. It will take better education, reduction in poverty, cultural changes and more--the fundamentals that allow for, in a practical sense, humanized sexuality and spiritual renewal.



Thanks for the comment. You say: "Condoms are not necessarily making the problem worse and saying so is counter-intuitive." Indeed. It is an empirical and not a logical question. But a lot of things that are counter-intuitive turn out to be true. Heavy things don't fall faster that lighter things. Dispensing more antibiotics can actually promote the spread of infectious diseases. Food aid to Africa has made matters worse there.

You compare the distribution of condoms to pouring water on a raging fire. The fire would be even higher without the water. Maybe. But if you are actually pouring kerosene on the fire, someone might make the same argument. You still have to determine if you are suppressing the fire or feeding it.

The problem with condoms is that they only work as instruments of responsible behavior. Handing out the little packages without encouraging the latter may indeed make matters worse. The most successful policies in Africa have been those that encouraged what the Pope would regard as moral behavior. Yes, he has a doctrinal bias against condoms, just as liberals have a doctrinal bias in favor of condoms and against abstinence and fidelity as objects of social policy. I don't care about condoms one way or the other. I just want to know what works.


I won't pretend to speak for all liberals--if that term describes me--but I have no "doctrinal bias in favor of condoms and against abstinence and fidelity as objects of social policy". I do have a bias against a one-size-fits-all (no reference to condoms intended) approach to solving social problems. And it seems to me that is what the Pope is advocating.

As I noted in my first post, I do not consider condoms the total solution. The Pope and the studies you cite are likely correct that they are not the single most effective solution and promotion of abstinence/fidelity very well may be. But that does not mean a significant minority is not better served by condom distribution coupled with aids awareness education.



I intended no accusation against you with the comparison of the Pope and liberals, just a point about the political context. The Washington Post editorial, and many of the reactions to the Pope's statement and to Edward Green's argument indicate that the Left just doesn't want to hear contrary evidence about condom distribution policies. The fate of the U.N. study sponsored and then withdrawn is further evidence of that.

In his WaPo piece, Green indicates that condoms sometimes do work. That looks to me like someone who cares about the evidence.

Registered GYN Nurse

"We do know that condoms, when used properly, will stop the transfer of the aids virus during intercourse".

Can youreference that for me?

The AIDS/HIV virus is very small and the pores of latex are very large in comparison. All of the physicians that I know always double glove if there is even a hint of a possibility of HIV infection. Some of them double glove all the time. I always double glove if blood or body fluids are likely to touch my gloves.

How many men (in Africa) use double condoms?

I am not Catholic but on this one the Pope has science on his side.

Please reference for me a scientific study that proves that condoms--when used properly--stops the transfer of HIV.

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