Who knew? Condoms make AIDS worse!

Pope Benedict XVI on the African AIDS crisis:
"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."
I suppose it was inevitable that someone would ask, even though the answer was entirely predictable. Still, with the Vatican's credibility deficit deepening by the day, this very public reminder of its most preposterous teaching could probably have come at a better time.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who knew, indeed?

The following is from an interview with Dr. Edward Green, Director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard School of Public Health and Center for Population and Development Studies. Dr. Edward Green is a medical anthropologist with 30 years of experience in developing countries and in the fight against AIDS. [Source]

The Pope’s statement about AIDS and condoms is at the centre of a sharp debate and many – from Mr. Kouchner to Mr. Zapatero, including the EU Commission – have claimed his position to be abstract and eventually dangerous. What is your opinion ?

I am a liberal on social issues and it’s difficult to admit, but the Pope is indeed right. The best evidence we have shows that condoms do not work as an intervention intended to reduce HIV infection rates, in Africa. (They have worked in e.g. Thailand and Cambodia, which have very different epidemics)

In a recent interview to NRO you said that there is no consistent association between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates. Could you deepen this point?

What we see in fact is an association between greater condom use and higher infection rates. We don’t know all the reasons for this but part of it is due to what we call risk compensation. This means that a man using condoms believes that they are more effective than they really are, and so he ends up taking greater sexual risks. Another fact which is widely overlooked is that condoms are used when people are engaging in casual or commercial sex. People don’t use condoms with spouses or regular partners. So if condom rates go up, it may be that we are seeing an increase of casual sex.

So, even if it is surprising, it is proven that a higher use of condoms is associated with higher infection rates.

People began noticing years ago that the countries in Africa with the highest condom availability and highest condom user rates, also had the highest HIV infection rates. This does not prove a causal relation, but it should have made us look critically at our condom programs years ago.

10:53 a.m.  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

No one is suggesting that condoms by themselves are the answer. That people might engage in riskier behaviour as a result of overestimating the effectiveness of condoms is entirely reasonable.

Dumping crates of condoms on an population that is uniformed about their use and limitations might well exacerbate the problem. But no one is suggesting that that should happen. To insist, as the pope does, that condoms cannot be at least part of the solution is both dishonest and irresponsible.

12:33 p.m.  

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