Blog

Love and HIV/AIDS

Whenever the issue of condoms come up, the Catholic Church is viciously attacked by the sexual libertines for its supposedly retrograde views. Last week we wrote about how the Pope's recent remarks on condoms were taken out of context by those who falsely claim the Church is contributing to the spread of HIV by its opposition to condoms.

We should not allow such charges to distract us from the real issue, which is this: How can we continue to spend 10 billion dollars a year—year in and year out—on failed condom promotion schemes and sex education courses in Africa when the data show that the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to worsen?

Two Catholic scholars, Matthew Hanley and Jokin de Irala, suggest that it is past time for a new approach. In Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS they point out that the spread of HIV can easily be prevented by avoiding sexual contact. Instead of continuing to pour billions of dollars into failed condom programs, they argue that funding should be redirected to efforts to change high-risk sexual behavior.

Western HIV/AIDS experts concluded from their experiences with homosexuals and drug users that risky sexual behavior cannot, or even should not, be changed. Their attitude reflects that of the homosexual who told a friend of mine, who had urged him in the direction of abstinence: “What it is to you if I want to die for sex?”

Most couples, of course, are not willing to die for sex, and are more than willing to change their behavior to avoid risks. Moreover, surveys show that most teenagers in African countries are not even sexually active. But the “experts” insist on taking risky behavior as a given, and continue to pursue “technical” solutions for the HIV pandemic.

Hanley and de Irala show that behavior change is not only possible, but has actually occurred in several countries. In fact, in every African country where HIV infections have declined, there has been a corresponding decrease in the proportion of men and women reporting more than one sex partner over the course of a year. Increasing marital fidelity is, not surprisingly, associated with a decrease in the spread of HIV infections. Another factor that is positively correlated with lower infection rates is a decrease in premarital sex among young people.

Increased condom use, on the other hand, seems to actually contribute to higher levels of infection. Why? Because when you tell young people that condoms will protect them against HIV infection, many will take greater sexual risks as a result. Of course, condoms often fail even when they are used consistently—which is, as it turns out, not often. Those who argue that “consistent condom use” will lower HIV infection rates have produced no evidence to speak of. Consistent condom use is rare.

By marshalling the evidence, Hanley and de Irala convincingly show that fidelity and chastity are not merely faith-based motivational programs but are also based on empirical evidence that they actually prevent AIDS. They offer a detailed case study of Uganda, where the Catholic Church played a major role in developing an AIDS prevention program. The emphasis in the program was placed on marital fidelity and delay of sexual debut—and the AIDS rate plummeted.

Catholics and others who are concerned that the Church's teaching on condom use somehow hinders AIDS prevention will benefit from a close reading of Hanley and de Irala's book. They will come away understanding that the epidemic does not stem from outdated moral teachings—as the Left claims—but from the ruthless imposition of Western notions of sexual liberation and license on traditional societies in Africa.

The major HIV/AIDS organizations, most of whom double as population control promoters, are ideologically committed to sexual license at all costs—even the cost of African lives—and take a very dim view of the African people. First and foremost, they claim that Africans cannot control their sexual urges and cannot change their sexual behavior, except of course for adopting condom use. As one Catholic priest put it, the current approach to HIV/AIDS prevention “is to treat people as rapacious … incapable of anything beyond immediate self-gratification…. When it is imposed by public and international agencies on Africans, it also represents unconscious but abhorrent racism. This is not a route that the Church can take.”

There is no end to the falsehoods that have been propagated by the Left to impugn the possibility that Africans can avoid premarital sex and practice fidelity within marriage. Indeed, they even claim, as Nicholas Kristoff wrote in The New York Times, that marriage is a dangerous enterprise for women. The truth is that, as you might expect, marriage is a safe haven from AIDS. Married people in Africa are always found to have lower HIV infection rates than people who are single, divorced, or widowed.

Of course, the condom approach benefits the manufacturers of condoms and other devices, as well as the organizations themselves, which continue to receive huge grants despite their failed programs. That these organizations also believe that Africa is overpopulated is additional cause for concern, since condoms act as a contraceptive.

The Church, it goes without saying, views the African people quite differently. It sees them as human beings created in the image of God who are more than capable of the loving sex sacrifice that abstinence and fidelity sometimes requires. What the Church is called to do by its theology turns about to be what works best in AIDS prevention: Marital fidelity and premarital abstinence.

Hanley and de Irala admit that “The odds of displacing the prevailing paradigm certainly appear long. But with Africa's willingness to lead, to insist on a hopeful and successful alternative, perhaps we can build it together.”

I would add that, for the paradigm to change, Catholics must speak with one voice on this issue. All of us need to recognize that, although the sexual libertines often distort his remarks almost beyond recognition, Pope Benedict continues to defend the timeless and saving wisdom of the Church in matters of human sexuality.

The Pope is borne aloft on twin wings of faith and reason where, guided by the Holy Spirit, he will not go astray. We must join him in defense of the Truth.

Share this

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

I heard a story.

I heard someone discussing the possibility of using condoms in marriage, if you knew your partner had HIV/AIDS. Two men were discussing condoms, not for birth control, but to protect their spouse. 

One said, "I would abstain from sex from my wife. I love her. I wouldn't have sex with a condom anymore than I would fire a gun at her head if someone told me the gun had nine blanks and one bullet. Just as I wouldn't fire that gun, and I certainly wouldn't fire it repeatedly, I wouldn't have sex with my wife with a condom. They fail too often, and I love her too much."

I was disheartening to know

I was disheartening to know that in Africa the data still shows that the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to worsen. Awareness is the only method that will work long term. I don’t think that the Catholic Church would say anything stupid about this issue. check here

AIDS condoms and the Catholic church

The smoking rate has not really changed all that much. After more than forty years of campaigning the old smokers should all be dead and nobody new starting. Don't start smoking has been the message yet kids still start smoking. Now what. Do nothing? Or try to help? Do we say if you smoke use low tar? Try to cut back, we will try to help you quit, we will treat your COPD.

Now jump to the AIDS epidemic in Africa. The message is don't have sex until marriage and stay faithful. This is like the surgeon general's message to kids. But if the person did not do the the chastity part the Catholic church says "Oh well." We will treat your AIDS but we won't support any campaign that mentions how to decrease risk of transmission to others now that you have AIDs. In fact the church is going to actively undermine anyone that does. This would be like the health care system telling that 50 year old, Yeah you started smoking but we won't teach you how to cut back or quit. We will treat your COPD though. The Catholic church has fought for years anyone mentioning condoms. Instead of saying clearly that although chastity is best if you are HIV positive and have no intention of being chaste, use a condom. Or if you are not going to be chaste, use a condom; or if you already have HIV and are getting married, use a condom. Instead there are some local bishops saying use the condom and others saying "no." The upper hierarchary saying "no" In the U. S. who should tell the American people on why we need to go to war: the president or the local state representative? The pope should clearly state the ruling. The message should be consistent throughout the church.

What the WHO wants the church to say and teach is that the condom reduces transmission. in sexually active people. Just as the medical profession teaches lots of smokers various techniques on how to quit or cut back. Of course abstinence is best but if the person commits infidelity, shouldn't we teach people to use the second best method: condoms. Quitting smoking is best but if you can't or won't; try to cut back. In the words of Marcella Aslan from Commonweal Magazine, "If men did not stray, if women had rights, if AIDS did not kill, perhaps the church's strict ban on on condom use would be morally defensible. But none of these conditions applies in Africa today." She was talking about a newly married young women contracting AIDS from their husbands. The young lady is monogamous and she cannot refuse her husbands sexual overtures. She "risks ostracism, violence and destitution for herself and her children." She cannot determine who she sleeps with or when. In the ideal world this would never happen just like in the ideal world no young person starts smoking. In the ideal world chastity prevails and infidelity does not exist. We can try and promote the ideal but we also have to deal with reality. Health care workers do this all the time. If a patient is doing unhealthy behavior, we try to promote change, talk about small changes which lead in the direction of health. We take people where they are at today and hope for a better tomorrow. We know that condoms reduce AIDS transmission by about 80 %. Not perfect but better than nothing in sexually active people.

When the pope says that western countries need to get AIDS drugs out to the third world, that is true but how do you cope while waiting for if or when those drugs arrive? Everyone in the world needs fresh safe water, but not every country or place has that water. Does this mean we should not provide stop gap, less than ideal methods of reducing impurities in water? When people are dying, can't we, should we, use a less perfect method of prevention while still talking about the ideal? I think we should. People are dying. To do less is neglect.

In Madison WI there is a recent case where a person who had a stroke years ago was living with her court appointed guardian. The guardian had a stroke and was lying on the bedroom floor. The orginal stroke lady did not call 911 for help. Instead she left the guardian on the floor where two days later the guardian died. The stroke lady whom I suspect is cognitively impaired has now been charged with homicide. Failure to help when help can be given is morally reprehensible. The Catholic church has known for years about AIDS. Failure to clarify the principle of double effect or the lessor of two evils, makes the church just as culpable as the stroke lady. I suspect even more culpable because the church doesn't have cognitive problems. Ignorance about all aspects of AIDS kills. The church has for years promoted ignorance and disinformation including stating that condoms transmit AIDS.
(Infection transmission rates is not linear but a curve. Also be careful about inferring cause with corelation. There are several reasons why one can have an increase in AIDS and still be promoting condoms in sexually active adults. Was there perfect use? Was the HIV already out there and now is being detected?)

Santorum and Africa

I notice that Rick Santorum supports various funding to Africa for AIDS. Is this the type of funding that focuses on condoms and birth control or are the programs he supports actually provide help to Africa in preventing the disease.

I'm learning, especially after reading Population Control, that sometimes government aid isn't aid at all but has another agenda.