Of Condoms and AIDS

I assume almost every Filipino of voting age is now aware of the ongoing scuffle between the Roman Catholic Hierarchy and the Department of Health headed by the newly appointed Esperanza Cabral. Secretary Cabral began distributing condoms for the public to the ire of our moral guardians. The two opposite poles of the debate now are either you are a pro-condom who believes that condom can readily prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS or unabated pregnancies, or an anti-condom who believes that condom in the first place should never be part of the preventive menu. For the sake of logic and reason, let’s pause for a while and listen to AIDS expert Edward Green, a Senior Research Scientist at Harvard School of Public Health. I believe he got something reasonable aside from the fiery casts of moral ideologies around. Here’s a quote from his article from The Washington Post:

“In 2003, Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California conducted a condom effectiveness study for the United Nations’ AIDS program and found no evidence of condoms working as a primary HIV-prevention measure in Africa. UNAIDS quietly disowned the study. (The authors eventually managed to publish their findings in the quarterly Studies in Family Planning.) Since then, major articles in other peer-reviewed journals such as the Lancet, Science and BMJ have confirmed that condoms have not worked as a primary intervention in the population-wide epidemics of Africa. In a 2008 article in Science called “Reassessing HIV Prevention” 10 AIDS experts concluded that “consistent condom use has not reached a sufficiently high level, even after many years of widespread and often aggressive promotion, to produce a measurable slowing of new infections in the generalized epidemics of Sub-Saharan Africa.”

4 thoughts on “Of Condoms and AIDS

  1. Pondering on this issue kapatid, my stand is also quite different… I believe that condom is not the ultimate solution to the AIDS problem… I believe in the tested formula of purity before marriage and fidelity within marriage…

    However, given the promiscuity of our human nature, I tend to agree that condoms should still be accessible to all. The responsible use of it however still boils down to each one’s choice.

    And so, if I am the health secretary, my program to curb AIDS would not focus on the use of condoms per se, but on responsible relationships.
    Responsible relationships would abstain… Responsible relationships would be faithful… And for those who cannot keep these, then at least be responsibly promiscuous, to protect oneself and one’s partner.

  2. I left one comment in one blog kapatid that if possible, we have to discard labels within the debate, labels like “conservative” or “liberals” because the more we stick to it, the more we are polarized and the real issue, clouded on. The issue shifts into a fight between the pro-condom and the anti-condom because the other accuses (often vehemently) the other as too conservative and vice versa. The Church essentially doesn’t totally negate population control otherwise it would not advocate NFP. The burden of the Church i think is this: does it have room for dialogue for other options aside from NFP? Obviously – the answer is none because of her “irrevocable” stance embodied in Humanae Vitae.
    I resonate with your personal stance kapatid…

    • I agree kapatid… Masyadong polarizing ang mga labels na ginagamit sa isyung ito…

      I was able to watch snippets of the interview of Sec. Cabral in Bottomline. And I must say na talagang napakahirap din ng position niya against the “irrevocable” stance of the Church… Hanggang sa naging ad hominem na ang mga arguments…

      • Dr. Green of Harvard, being a medical anthropologist himself is really very enlightening to me. Two years ago, i wrote a post quite argumentatively in favor of condom. It was during the heat of the Congressional debate of the RH Bill, and almost forgetting of the medical anthropology (which i took as a grad course) of the AIDS issue that Dr. Green has lucidly and honestly brought out. Dr. Green summarily contends that human behavior has to be accounted for which means that if condom use works in Thailand, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work in Africa (and it didn’t) and vice versa. To piggyback on what you said on responsible relationship for example – how does condom use fit into the Pinoy psyche, family dynamics, our youth’s sense of the consequences of sex including its emotional and spiritual costs, etc. I suppose this is a fertile area for dialogue that the Church can also accommodate…

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