On June 17, 1987, Dr. Maria Crenshaw, past president of the American Association of Sex Educators, stood up before 800 sex educators at the World Congress of Sexology in Heidelberg and asked a revealing question: “If you had available the partner of your dreams, and knew this person carried the HIV virus — would you rely on a condom for protection?” Not a single person raised a hand
In spite of the media hype surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s statement regarding the AIDS crisis in Africa, there is ample evidence to suggest the pope has a point. To judge whether this is true, one need only look at the facts — first with respect to the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV, and then with respect to other methods of fighting the disease.
More specific information about the effectiveness of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS is provided by organizations supportive of the use of condoms. For example, the Guttmacher Institute, whose mission is “advancing sexual and reproductive health,” did a study on “The Effectiveness of Condoms in Reducing Heterosexual Transmission of HIV.” The study concludes that the level of protection from HIV provided by condoms “approximates 87 percent, with a range depending upon the incidence among condom nonusers.” It also concludes that “the condom’s efficacy at reducing heterosexual transmission may be comparable to or slightly lower than its effectiveness at preventing pregnancy” (Family Planning Perspectives, 1999, 31(6):272-279).
The relative ineffectiveness of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS is also attested by experience. Indeed, over the past 20 years, the promotion of behavioral changes has proven much more effective than that of condom use. The director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University, Edward C. Green, recently stated that “research has produced no evidence that condom promotion — or indeed any of the range of risk-reduction interventions popular with donors — has had the desired impact on HIV-infection rates at a population level in high-prevalence generalized epidemics.”
For some persons when they are confronted with the reality that someone they truly love and is committed to with the virus the reaction is going to be based on our biases and our principles. The decision to be with someone who has declared this is never easy.
The promotion of condoms as a means of fighting against the scourge of HIV/AIDS is, at best, questionable. However, for those who still believe that man is endowed with a soul, it may be noted that, to the extent that it removes a disincentive to engage in casual sex, the promotion of condoms contributes to a moral breakdown which can only facilitate the spread of HIV.
One need not be a pillar of the Church to see that the views expressed by our church leaders, groups and various societies when we were young was not way off, that abstinence is the way to go, to wait until you have found that partner you intend to marry for better or worse until death . To dismiss them as “grievously wrong” or as “contrary to the accumulated evidence” reflects an attitude that is based more on ideology than on common sense. Our common sense should say that instead of depending on condoms to save our society we could start practicing healthy sex habits, the ones that are shared with us by God.
Contribution by Baron Anderson, top contributor on Relationship Talk.