Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No substitute for monogomy and fidelity

Benedict XVI has been widely criticized for his opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa. It doesn't seem to occur to the critics that his opposition has little to do with the Catholic opposition to artificial contraception in marriage. British Jesuit Michael Czerny explains:
In Europe and North America, where condoms are culturally accepted by many, people ask incredulously, ‘Why on earth does the Church oppose their promotion?’ Some with muddled thinking have even accused Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI of presiding over an AIDS genocide. ....

...[A]ccording to prevention experts, a condom, when it is correctly used, can reduce the risk of HIV-infection during an act of intercourse, and individuals who use condoms consistently are less likely to give or get HIV. When a man and woman have sex before, within or outside marriage, public health is unconcerned with the morality of what they do in the privacy of the bedroom. Culturally and legally, in Europe and North America, there is considerable acceptance for sexual behaviour as long as it is consensual, that is, provided the two individuals both agree. In this context, the condom seems common sense. Western opinion makers and media really want the Church to approve of extramarital sex, which is against the religious faith and traditional cultural values shared by millions throughout the world.

.... Doing something wrong might be safer with a condom but safety doesn’t make the act right. The Church cannot encourage ‘safer’ without suggesting that it is somehow right. To say, ‘Do not commit adultery but, if you do, use a condom’ is tantamount to saying: ‘The Church has no confidence in you to live the good life.’

A man and woman, not married to each other, who have consensual intercourse are disregarding the Church’s teaching. They hardly need the Pope to tell them to use a condom. What they badly do need is for the Church to help them live a respectful and responsible sexuality. ‘Abstinence and fidelity are not only the best way to avoid becoming infected by HIV or infecting others, but even more are they the best way of ensuring progress towards lifelong happiness and true fulfilment.’ [more]

Thanks to Insight Scoop for the reference.

Moreover, as an interview in Christianity Today with Edward C. Green, described as "one of the world's leading field researchers on the spread of HIV..." and "director of the Harvard AIDS Prevention Research Project," demonstrates, promoting condoms isn't even effective if the moral concerns are disregarded:
Is Pope Benedict being criticized unfairly for his comments about HIV and condoms?
This is hard for a liberal like me to admit, but yes, it's unfair because in fact, the best evidence we have supports his comments — at least his major comments, the ones I have seen.
What does the evidence show about the effectiveness of condom-use strategies in reducing HIV infection rates among large-scale populations?
It will be easiest if we confine our discussion to Africa, because that's where the pope is, and that is what he was talking about. There's no evidence at all that condoms have worked as a public health intervention intended to reduce HIV infections at the "level of population." .... Major articles published in Science, The Lancet, British Medical Journal, and even Studies in Family Planning have reported this finding since 2004. I first wrote about putting emphasis on fidelity instead of condoms in Africa in 1988. ....
Is there any country in Africa with a high HIV infection rate that has implemented new programs and seen infection rates fall? If so, what strategies are being followed?
I'm glad you asked this. We are seeing HIV decline in eight or nine African countries. In every case, there's been a decrease in the proportion of men and women reporting multiple sexual partners. Ironically, in the first country where we saw this, Uganda, HIV prevalence decline stopped in about 2004, and infection rates appear to be rising again. This appears to be in part because emphasis on interventions that promote monogamy and fidelity has weakened significantly, and earlier behavior changes have eroded. There has been a steady increase in the very behavior that once accounted for rates declining — namely, having multiple and concurrent sex partners. There is a widespread belief that somehow Uganda had fewer condoms. In fact, foreign donors have persuaded Uganda to put even more emphasis on condoms. .... [more]
A human and spiritual wake-up call [Thinking Faith - the online journal of the British Jesuits], Condoms, HIV, and Pope Benedict | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.