Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Pope on Condoms in Africa

Pope Benedict XVI: condoms make Aids crisis worse
While en route from Rome to his first stop, Cameroon, the Pope said that the condition was "a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."

Speaking on board his official plane, the pontiff insisted that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against Aids, advocating sexual abstinence and fidelity within marriage as a way of fighting the disease.

How many additional people are going to get sick and die because of this idiot and his religious dogma? A million?

EDIT: A commenter points me to this article quoting the director of AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies saying that the Pope is right.

I apologize for my questions above if this correction holds up. Can anyone who knows more about the subject weigh in?

47 comments:

Tigerboy said...

I apologize for being slightly off topic, but this drives me up the wall. Especially, because it comes from a newspaper.

AIDS is spelled with all capital letters. AIDS is an acronym. It stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. I realize that many acronyms, when they come into frequent and common usage, lose the label. People stop thinking about them as acronyms, like "scuba" or "laser."

However, if AIDS is losing it's status as an acronym, there is no reason to capitalize the first letter. We don't capitalize other illnesses. We don't capitalize "mumps" or "chicken pox" or "cancer." AIDS is not a proper noun.

A newspaper should know better.

Back on topic, yes, this is one of the many, many, many revolting aspects of the Catholic Church. They are so caught up in their own dogma, they don't see how their words and policies result in millions of deaths.

Since Karol Wojtyla first decided that he cared more about his pretty white dresses and jewels than human lives, how many millions of loyal Catholics have died of AIDS?

The Catholic Holocaust.

In places like Cameroon, people have limited access to information. The dogmatic misinformation and propaganda from the Catholic Church may be the only AIDS education these people get.

They are victims of a bad combination of blind faith and blind dogmatism.

Demagogues, like Joey Rats, don't actually give a shit about people. They only care about self-aggrandizement and the safeguarding of their own money and power.

He's a pig.

Apikores said...

No sex with condoms, but we'd better make sure that pedophile priests don't get caught, and that 9-year-old rape victims don't have abortions.

That guy needs to get laid.

Holy Hyrax said...

>In places like Cameroon, people have limited access to information. The dogmatic misinformation and propaganda from the Catholic Church may be the only AIDS education these people get.

Im just curious, how many of the people in Africa that have AIDS are catholic? Seems to me, that he is saying two things: Don't use condoms, AND be abstinent. Would it then be fair to say who ever is ACTUALLY listening to the pope and NOT using condoms is also listening to him and being abstinent? Just curious.

Holy Hyrax said...

So I just found some stats, and I am wrong in my question.

Tigerboy said...

WOJTYLA: Let's issue an edict to the people of the second most populated continent on the planet, a continent where many nations have below a 50% literacy rate, an edict that says people should "just say no" to an absolutely normal, extremely powerful, hormonally-driven human urge to have sex . . . . . then let's cross our gloved and jewel-encrusted fingers and hope it all works out.

RATIONAL THOUGHT: What about condoms? They are an extremely inexpensive technology that has had great success in preventing infection from this devastating, life-threatening virus. Condoms could save millions of lives!

JOEY RATS: No way. Condoms make Jesus cry.

RATIONAL THOUGHT: Your invisible friend? In this situation, we might want to deal with reality.

WOJTYLA: We Catholic priests have learned to "just say no." Africa can do likewise.

JOEY RATS: Actually, Karol, there have been some slip-ups.

WOJTYLA: In Africa?

JOEY RATS: A number of priests got caught with the choir boy's pants down. We tried to cover it up, but the damn boys squealed.

RATIONAL THOUGHT: So, even though your own priests cannot live up to the chastity standards they preach, the whole continent of Africa, in fact, the whole WORLD is expected to guard against AIDS by being abstinent until marriage? Do you realize how many African women have been infected with AIDS by their own husbands? Tell me, again. Condoms are evil, why? Because an invisible carpenter says so? Nice.

Apikores said...

That made me laugh tigerboy, and cry.

Comrade Kevin said...

I hear you get a lot less Catholics when you use condoms, too. Just a thought.

Holy Hyrax said...

Thats nice CK

avian30 said...

Holy Hyrax wrote:

"Seems to me, that he is saying two things: Don't use condoms, AND be abstinent. Would it then be fair to say who ever is ACTUALLY listening to the pope and NOT using condoms is also listening to him and being abstinent? Just curious."

No. The Pope is saying condoms should not be distributed in countries with high rates of HIV/AIDS:

"One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem."

The Pope is implying the policy (of no condom distribution) should be imposed upon the entire population. He is not merely offering advice to devout Catholics in these countries.

Fawzia said...

Holy Hyrax asks,
Im just curious, how many of the people in Africa that have AIDS are catholic? Seems to me, that he is saying two things: Don't use condoms, AND be abstinent. Would it then be fair to say who ever is ACTUALLY listening to the pope and NOT using condoms is also listening to him and being abstinent? Just curious.

I'm a former Muslim, but the AIDS crisis is disproportionately affecting Africa's Christians & Catholics. The North of Africa which is Muslim, has extremely low AIDS rates, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco & Egypt have lower rates than many other nations. It might also be interesting to note here that these countries' have some of the lowest birthrates by African standards, Algeria & Tunisia are having sub replacement birthrates.

The country with the lowest AIDS rate in Sub Saharan Africa is Muslim Senegal at just .8%. Senegal is also a very tolerant country with full religious freedom & no honor killings or killing apostates, its first Persident Leopold Sanghor was a Christian, son of a Muslim mother & a Christian father.
Mali, Somalia all have significantly lower rates, nowhere is the rate crossing the 10% mark like in Christian Swaziland, South Africa, Botswana etc.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I would love to debate Shalmo sometime on your blog, JP's very funny too, but I know loads about my former faith, so I'd love to debate Shalmo.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ooh, that sounds interesting, Anon.

Anonymous said...

JA, I thought you were the type of person who likes to make decisions on facts, not ideology.

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MTNlNDc1MmMwNDM0OTEzMjQ4NDc0ZGUyOWYxNmEzN2E=

I'll summarize:

‘We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.”

So notes Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, in response to papal press comments en route to Africa this week.


“The pope is correct,” Green told National Review Online Wednesday, “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments. He stresses that “condoms have been proven to not be effective at the ‘level of population.’”

“There is,” Green adds, “a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.”

Green added: “I also noticed that the pope said ‘monogamy’ was the best single answer to African AIDS, rather than ‘abstinence.’ The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates (the other major factor is male circumcision).”


So sorry to tell you this, but the Pope is correct. Distributing condoms is making the AIDS problem worse in Africa.

Jewish Atheist said...

Anon,

Interesting, I'd never seen that before. All the scientific sourced I'd seen say the opposite.

Anonymous said...

@Anon,

Then why is the only Sub Saharan country in Africa with very low AIDS rates Senegal? Senegal has just .8% AIDS, prostitution is completely legal in Senegal & condom use is widely advised & distributed. Even in Catholic Uganda, which has seen some success in reducing HIV-there was a three point programme-Abstinence, Be faithful, Condoms or death.So condoms were part of the programme too.

Why does North Africa which is pre dominantly Muslim have such low AIDS rates? North Africa ostensibly has very high use of condoms-countries' like Tunisia have very successful birth control programmes & Algeria, Tunisia are already sub replacement.Morocco & Egypt will soon hit the replacement mark.

Islam recently ousted Catholicism as the biggest single faith(although that Islam included Sunnis, Shias & others)& Catholic Church claimed it was birthrates. Well, North Africa has some of Africa's lowest birthrates while many African Catholics have huge birthrates due to the ban on condoms. But it seems all those new people are claimed by AIDS. Tch, Tch.

Anonymous said...

JA - Good on you for reconsidering your position in light of Anon's comments.

The "science" on AIDS prevention in Africa is highly politicized and strongly conforms to PC and sexual-revolution pieties. I'm a little surprised you haven't (apparently) read any of the dissenters till now.

Here's an article from Spiked in 2005 arguing that the "Pope kills millions" crowd are mostly full of crap - the sort of people who make sweeping, lurid accusation without bothering to do any research (eh, Tigerboy?).

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/1125/

This article from the religious magazine First Things makes the case that pro-fidelity, pro-chastity policies (as in Uganda) have a better track record than pro-condom policies.

http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6172

To me it makes sense. The pro-condom people assume that you can leave the structure of desire unchanged and just apply a technology. But really, if you can't keep it in your pants with the truck-stop whores, are you the kind of person who will, say, forgo sex when you don't have a condom handy, or resist the delights of condomless sex when the girl says it's OK?

The "religious fanatics" understand that you have to change values, not technologies. If you change the way you think about sex, so that you value chastity and fidelity, you will change the way you (at least try to) act.

intellectual pariah

Anonymous said...

Well,religious magazines also write a lot of supposedly scientific stuff like how Darwinism is a liberal fallacy & Creationism is correct, some going as far as to suggest that the Earth is 6000 years old, so they can be accused of intellectual hypocrisy as well.

As for Uganda-it had a 3 point programme-ABC- A for abstinence, B for be faithful & C for condoms, I repeat C for Condoms. So Condoms were part of the programme.

However, the proof of the pudding is plainly in the eating. How do we know whether a society uses condoms? t has fewer babies and a lower birthrate generally.The lowest birthrates in Africa are in the Muslim nations of Algeria & Tunisia which are sub replacement & their Muslim neighbours Morocco & Egypt which are a bit above replacement.They have extremely low AIDS by world standards.

Even Uganda is still struggling with significant AIDS rates, Senegal has just .8% AIDS with a comprehensive condom policy, although even prostitution is legal.Senegal with legal & widely distributed condoms & legal prostitutes managed to keep its infection rate to American levels despite being a sub Saharan African nation.

Anonymous said...

Anon, I agree that Senegal is worth taking a close look at. As you point out, the most striking thing about AIDS rates in Africa is how low they are in the Muslim north compared to the Christian/animist south. This is even true of sub-Saharan countries like Senegal, so the cause appears to be cultural rather than genetic.

I'd guess that in Muslim countries men don't let their women sleep around, while in Christian/animist countries they don't mind so much, especially if they can hope for a piece of their neighbour's wife on occasion. There's evidence that women in non-Muslim Africa are more open to running multiple long-term affairs than women than in most other countries. This is normally interpreted through a feminist script - they have "zero personal autonomy", as Canada's great AIDS fool, Stephen Lewis, recently intoned - but it seems to be true of middle-class professional women as well. It's a local cultural norm, which Islam, apparently, has suppressed but Christianity so far has not.

Network theory, a branch of mathematics, has been useful working out how STDs spread, since, after all, they are spread through sexual networks. It seems that networks characterised by multiple concurrent relationships (as in non-Muslim Africa) are highly efficient at spreading STDs. This is especially true if there is a continuum of sexual behaviour, from the fairly chaste wife who maybe has a fling every couple of years, to the party girl, to the prostitute. (I'm picking on women, 'cos female chastity varies more between cultures than male chastity.) Take away prostitution, and in theory AIDS could still spread in non-Muslim Africa (although, in fact, high levels of prostitution may be the tipping point.)

In Senegal, I imagine that a large majority of women are chaste (abstinent before marriage, faithful afterwards), but some proportion of men resort to prostitutes. This is where a condom strategy can work. Prostitutes don't typically take a sentimental view of sex, and they know they are at high risk. Moreover, they tend to be concentrated in specific neighbourhood, and they have to make themselves findable. It's easy to see how you might achieve high, consistent condom use in this specific group; but imposing effective condom use across an entire "normal" population is much harder.

I doubt that even the Catholic Church opposes condom programs among prostitutes, but they do oppose things like advocating condom use between non-infected married couples. That's part of the standard pro-condom position, and it obviously makes sense in a way. But once you consider its effect on sexual norms, it looks like a bad idea. The Church would say that it implicitly de-norms fidelity as a component of marriage. In so far as value changes drive behavioural changes, de-norming fidelity increases infidelity. From a non-Catholic point of view, the moral question is whether the hazardous effect of increased infidelity outweighs the protective effect of higher condom use. Apparently, it does.

Certainly, some negative factor has overwhelmed the protective effects of society-wide pro-condom programs, since higher condom use is associated with higher, not lower, AIDS rates. Intuitively, I'd guess that pro-condom programs fail because they aggravate sexual risk-taking. The programs that do better are those that promote chastity (often by invoking Christian values) while restricting condom programs to high-risk groups like prostitutes and couples with one infected partner.

There's an interesting analogy with P2P file sharing. The first P2P networks were centralised (had central registers or something - I don't understand it). Thus they were easy to shut down. Later networks have been increasing decentralised, and they are much more resilient - there's no central point for the authorities hit.

Think of Senegal as a first-generation P2P network, with prostitutes as the control centre. Think of Zimbabwe as latest generation P2P, with no clear centre. Think of AIDS as file sharing. Think of the AIDS establishment as the RIAA.

intellectual pariah

Anonymous said...

I looked up some statistics on Senegalese' sexual behaviour, and while they are not as locked-down as I assumed based on their religion, Senegal is indeed sexually conservative by the standards of sub-Saharan Africa.

http://preview.tinyurl.com/aids-senegal

Excerpts:

"Married women in Senegal rarely have partners beside their husband."

Even for men, "rates of extramarital activity are low compared to those found in other countries."

"In recent years, the age at first sex and the age at first marriage have both been rising [for women]."

"68 percent of women said they had not had sex before marriage," despite the age at marriage averaging 18 for uneducated girls and 28 educated women.

"The more educated a girl is, the longer she is likely to wait before having sex. In a study of female students in 1998, 95 percent reported that they had never had sex."

"Unfortunately, it is not possible to know to what extent AIDS prevention campaigns have affected the relatively low levels of sexual activity outside marriage recently recorded in Senegal. It seems likely that extramarital sex was never common in this cohesive and religiously active society. It is possible, however, that AIDS prevention campaigns have reinforced these traditional patterns of behaviour, staving off an increase in extramarital sex at young ages which may otherwise result from increasing urbanization and social mobility, and perhaps also from economic changes which make access to cash increasingly important for young people."

Prostitution was legalised in 1969. "Registered sex workers have since then been required to have regular health checks, and are treated for curable STDs if necessary. This system of registration provided a framework within which to approach sex workers with educational and health campaigns."

Comment:

To fair, the authors state than Senegalese who have sex outside marriage are more likely to use condoms than people elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. No doubt that has had some protective effect, but you can't disentangle the affect of condoms from the other protective factors such as sexual norms. So you can't make a conclusive case for pro-condom policies based on Senegal.

intellectual pariah

Anonymous said...

Sorry, here's a better link for that article:

http://tinyurl.com/aids-senegal

i.p.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon,

I don't think women sleeping around is the factor to blame. In some AIDS ridden African nations like in the Christian nations of Zimbabwe & Swaziland men outlive women by a few years, do you mean very young women sleep around but very young men don't? The primary cause of men outliving women in these nations is that women fall victim to AIDS. It seems likely that women catch AIDS from their older, infected husbands.

Also Senegal maybe pretty religious, but it is also extremely religiously tolerant, its first President Leopold Sanghor was a Christian, son of a Muslim mother & a Christian father,interfaith marriages,including marriage between Muslim women like Sanghor's mom & Christian men are common, no honor killings & full religious freedom. Even the death penalty has been abolished. I don't think such a nation keeps a very tight leash on its womenfolk, even if they are generally chaste & while Senegalese maybe devout-by allowing prostitution,banning even the death penalty show they're certainly no religious nutters.

Anonymous said...

Hi, other Anon.

(I usually call myself Intellectual Pariah, I'm just to lazy to set up an account for posting in Blogger.)

I'm not blaming women for the AIDS epidemic; I'm just pointing that women's voluntary sexual behaviour has an effect. This is something that tends to be overlooked by the dominant script, which is informed by an intellectually ossified feminism.

Looking at AIDS through the lens of network theory is a good way of turning off our instinct to moralise about these issues. I have no problem with moral condemnation, but it doesn't usually help at the analytical stage.

The fact is, the sexual behaviours found in non-Muslim have probably been a key factor in the epidemic. It's not anyone's individual behaviour; it's what you might call the whole sexual ecosystem.

Islam isn't my favourite religion, but I think the Senegalese religiosity has been highly positive with regard to AIDS and probably in other ways as well. As you point out, Senegal's political culture could be a model for Africa. I have no idea how this relates to its conservative social culture.

i.p.

Anonymous said...

Thanks IP,

Call me Fawzia, I have a Google account then I just decided to post as anonymous. I'm a former Muslim 15 year old originally from Iran now in a non Muslim country & my parents are cooler with my apostasy than JA's parents were.

I'm interested in Judaism only because I think the OT & the Quran can rival each other in misogyny & violence, yet the two groups of people are so different in real life- I've often pondered how it is so. Islam is 1400 years old, I've often also wondered whether the Mid East Jews in the approximately 1400 years before Talmudic times were as bad as today's Muslims are.

Islam is my ex religion & my least favorite religion BTW, but I'm able to see how it can contribute something positive someplace in the world.

When will Shalmo arrive mentioning that Ayesha was probably 19 or any other such silly thing, so I can debate him? ;-)

Anonymous said...

You're only 15? I'm 51. Man, you're a great writer. I was utterly clueless at your age.

i.p.

Tigerboy said...

No one is arguing that reducing sex partners isn't a good idea.

No one is claiming that being absolutely faithful to a single partner, and your partner doing likewise, isn't a good goal.

---"The pro-condom people assume that you can leave the structure of desire unchanged and just apply a technology."

I have never argued that reduction of partners isn't a good sex-education goal, but the "structure of desire" exists within the human DNA. People are hormonally-driven to have sex.

The average age of the entire population in Nigeria is 17. The average age of many African countries is below 25.

People will have sex.

Telling people that proper use of a condom is SINFUL, which is, and always has been, the position of the Catholic Church, is evil.

Distribution of condoms, without proper sex-education, may not be without problems--a tendency to take greater risk seems to be Green's point--but that does not change the fact that a condom is an inexpensive technology that, when PROPERLY used, greatly reduces infection rates.

Teaching proper condom use, rather than the "sinfulness" of condom use, seems a better goal.

Teaching people about "talking snakes" and "virgin births" and "lakes of fire" may, in fact, prevent some people from having sex.

Isn't TRUTH a better goal of health education?

meercat said...

Abstinence and fidelity would be a fabulous way of solving the AIDS problem, but then reality steps in and ruins everything.
Check out this new blog:
http://noreligionformethanks.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Hi meercat,

Unfortunately, no one is talking about solving the AIDS crisis in Africa, just on reducing it. What kind of programs work is an empirical question, wouldn't you agree?

The argument has been made that programs emphasising chastity have shown some success, while those emphasising condom use have been failures. In other words, that the pope is basically right.

This is certainly not the last word on the subject. But let's look where the thread started. This blog's author, an intelligent, well-informed and well-intentioned secularist said, "How many additional people are going to get sick and die because of this idiot and his religious dogma? A million?"

This is not an extremist view. Millions of well-meaning, well-educated progressives hold a similar opinion. The message: Not only is the pope wrong, he is outrageously, absurdly wrong - he is a stupid old man blinded by dogma, and his views are far outside the range of respectable opinion.

Now it turns out, maybe the pope is right. Whether, in the end, he turns out to be right, he is at least making a valid contribution to the debate.

It seems to me that a bit of self-criticism is in order among the pope's detractors - for reacting out of ill-informed fury to arguments that merit respectful examination. JA has been exemplary here.

i.p.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tigerboy,

My apologies for threatening to dominate this thread. I've rarely posted about the AIDS/Africa issue, so I find it interesting to work out my ideas in this thread.

I agree that properly used, condoms could stop could stop AIDS in its tracks. It hasn't happened so far.

Unfortunately for would-be social engineers, the notion of educational programs can be an idee fixe. One can always imagine that some new educational campaign will push condom use to an effective level; just as World War I generals could imagine that the next push across no-man's-land would be the war-winning breakthrough.

It's kind of a weird argument, the assumption that condom use can be changed (somehow), but sexual behaviour can't be. In fact, despite being driven by a powerful instinct, sexual behaviour varies enormously, from Senegal to... uh, whatever African country has the most permissive sexual mores. Moreover, sexual behaviour does change, and it is said that every major reduction in AIDS prevalence in Africa has been accompanied by more-chaste sexual behaviour.

Condom programs have yet to show similar success on a societal level.

Here's another good article, a summary of the Lancet's article on "HIV/AIDS: 10 Myths". Well worth reading. Myth #6: "Condoms Are the Answer". Myth #10: "Sexual Behaviour Will Not Change".

(To be fair, they quote a pro-condom critic as well.)

i.p.

Anonymous said...

Here's the article I referred to:

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=85545

Anonymous said...

Another article, from the Journal of International Development (2004):

Tim Allen (LSE) and Suzette Heald (Brunel Univ.), "HIV/AIDS policy in Africa: what has worked in Uganda and what has failed in Botswana?"

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/109751930/abstract

From the abstract:

the promotion of condoms at an early stage proved to be counter-productive in Botswana, whereas the lack of condom promotion during the 1980s and early 1990s contributed to the relative success of behaviour change strategies in Uganda.

It could be the pope.

(Well, he'd say it in Italian or German and in more flowery language, but still...)

i.p.

Anonymous said...

I just checked up on this about HIV\AIDS in Haiti. Seems in faraway Haiti too, HIV\AIDS is booming!Its already nearing 4%
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_in_Haiti

I'm not very clued in on the Harvard Report, so I can't give a very educated opinion on the condoms v. abstinence thing, but
regardless of whether condoms are the best cure or not,I think its unfair to either ban condoms or preach against them, its very much a matter of personal choice & unlike abortion, it does not involve any potential deaths either.

Lets face it, Catholics in the world live in two sorts of countries-the Catholics of France,U.S.A., Spain, Poland, Italy or Ireland have sex outside wedlock pretty often, the reason they have less AIDS is because they're very aware of contraceptives, including condoms. I don't think they practice a great deal of abstinence themselves. These rich people fund Catholic missionary programmes in Africa & the Church tells the poor Africans to avoid condoms, hoping for loads of Catholic babies, which Italy or Poland won't provide. Unlike the rich Irish or French, the Africans put a lot of emphasis on their priests & religious teachings & deprive themselves of condoms coz thats what their Priests tell them to do.

Isn't it unfair that Irish & Italians will plan their families as well as enjoy pre marital or extra marital sex but Africans who have it drilled into them that condoms are sinful can't? As it happens Africa is poorer so they're worse off in material stuff,now they have to keep even their sexual instincts under the strictest control while Italians & French have all the fun, while nominally adhering to the same faith?

Fawzia

Tigerboy said...

Teaching people that they should feel guilty and dirty about their sexual urges may be a somewhat effective way of preventing them from having sex. Educating people about respecting the health and well-being of themselves, and their partners, is quite different.

Sex prevention is NOT a noble goal. People are allowed to have sex. Not only is it a given that people WILL have sex, they are ENTITLED to do so.

It's a HUMAN RIGHT.

Human beings are entitled to accurate information about their health, and how best to protect themselves. Abstinence is an excellent strategy to prevent AIDS infection. There are others.

Isn't the suggestion that Africa must be taught mythology, instead of safer sex practices, more than a bit paternalistic? Using the concepts of "sin" and "eternal damnation" to educate people about sex is condescending, degrading, and insulting.

Abstinence, objective medical advice, accurate sex education, and proper condom usage are all good strategies to prevent AIDS infection.

Guilt and rosary beads are not.

Jewish Sceptic said...

I wonder if Green (the Harvard guy) is religious...If so, that would cast some light on his support for the Pope. This isn't enough evidence, but I see he's written in the journal of "Christian Connections for International Health," and on studies of religious change to christianity.

Also, this seems to be a massive topic. Green has many opinions on all sorts of AIDS related issues, including the fall of HIV in Uganda (here: http://www.springerlink.com/content/h00r4n6521805w27/ ) which he attributes to a decline of multi-partner sexual behaviour.

Also, it seems that condom distribution doesn't necessarily translate into condom use. See this article on Liberia and the "treatment" of AIDS and ethnomedical treatment of STDs.

The point is, it's apparant that there's far more to the debate of the effectiveness of condoms in africa than "condoms dont help prevent AIDS and also increase it" verses "yes it does."

Theresa said...

This graph is just a straight plot of Percent HIV infected plotted against percent Catholic per country in Africa. The HIV numbers are old. I plotted the graph to see if it was accurate using the numbers currently in wikipedia and it came out similar showing no trend between HIV rates and Catholism in Africa.

http://www.godandscience.org/images/catholicvshiv.gif

Although the picture is much more complicated than just plotting the two variables together, there is a huge range in the percentage of Catholics in these countries, and it doesn't seem to affect the AIDS prevalence one bit.

What's up with overlooking all the charity and making a religion out to be evil because they don't support rubbers? That seems kinda short sighted and egotistical that you are so certain you are right about the virtue of condoms against that of charity.

Anonymous said...

@ Theresa,

The reason of "overlooking all the charity" is precisely because this charity has a very strong motive-converting more Heathens to Christ.
However, more heathens won't be of much use when these heathens have a single child or two children, like the Italian Catholics or even African Tunisian Muslims are having. So the best way to keep numbers big-ban condoms & artificial contraceptives.Natural contraceptives are difficult to implement, might lead people to slip up & then at least a single, if not a couple of new Catholic babies will be born.

Ironically, those people who fund "all the charity" don't really practice all this self restraint on themselves. Its the richie rich Italians, French, American Catholics,Irish, even Poles who're rich by African standards who fund all this mission & then the Pope & Catholic Priests preach to poor gullible people that condoms are baad, baaad,BAAAAD, along with all the charity, hoping that they'll make loads of Catholic babies & keep the Church's numbers up. However, the rich, well educated & more rational Italians, Poles, French & Irish will mostly have sex before marriage, often have kids before marriage(more than half of French kids were born out of wedlock last year)& freely enjoy themselves, with all their contraceptives & plan their families to 1-3 kids.

Isn't it hugely exploiting poor & gullible people who take all their guidance from religion by telling them that God doesn't like condoms, when the people funding "all the charity" have free access to condoms? These African people have to keep a strict eye on themselves,not have sex before or outside marriage, plan their families within marriage with very complex natural methods, be burdened with pregnancies which condoms or artificial contraceptives could've easily avoided so that those doing "all the charity", having sex out of wedlock & having 1-2 kids can have the satisfaction of seeing loads of Catholics come into the world in Africa?

And if the Italians or French want sex without either diseases or kids, they could always buy condoms. If Africans want sex? Due to "all the charity" by the rich folks, they will have to quickly restrain their urges, oorr have sex & suffer the consequences.

Jewish Atheist said...

Theresa:

What's up with overlooking all the charity and making a religion out to be evil because they don't support rubbers? That seems kinda short sighted and egotistical that you are so certain you are right about the virtue of condoms against that of charity.

I recognize and applaud the church for all the good work that it does. (It does, as people have pointed out, often have ulterior motive, but good works are good works.) But, if (and that's certainly an "if") Benedict is really responsible for a million deaths because of his dogma, that's an enormous evil that's pretty hard to overcome by also doing good works.

Tigerboy said...

"All the charity" . . . give me a break.

Joey Rats lives the most fabulously ostentatious lifestyle on the planet. Bill Gates doesn't live as good as this guy!

He lectures poor people, some of whom are literally starving and living in mud huts, that they are SINNERS for practicing a little family planning! Are you kidding me?!?

Appalling.

Charity from a group like "Doctors Without Borders" I can respect. They don't help the poor because it provides them power and fabulous antiques-filled palaces. They don't spend the money that is donated to them on gold candlesticks, hand-embroidered silk dresses, and jewel-encrusted thrones.

They spend it on medicine and supplies.

They don't use guilt and scare tactics to control people.

They don't call people "sinners" for not following orders.

The Catholic Church uses apocalyptic propaganda to frighten people into submission.

Anonymous said...

This is the U.N. Report on the AIDS Epidemic.
http://www.unaids.org/en/CountryResponses/Regions/default.asp

Anonymous said...

But, if (and that's certainly an "if") Benedict is really responsible for a million deaths because of his dogma, that's an enormous evil that's pretty hard to overcome by also doing good works.

Very true, JA. On the other hand, if behavioural change is the best way of reducing AIDS and over-emphasising condoms has hindered that, then the shoe's on the other foot. It would be the mainline AIDS organizations that have many deaths on their consciences.

IMO (as a non-Catholic) pope's recent comment ("the distribution of condoms... even aggravates the problems.") is actually quite reasonable given our current state of knowledge. The heated reaction against him likely has two causes: (1) the persistence of old shibboleths about AIDS in Africa, which are finally showing signs of breaking up (witness the UN report cited by another commenter), and (2) social liberals' loathing for the the Catholic Church as one of the last major defenders of traditional sexual morality.

i.p.

Jewish Atheist said...

On the other hand, if behavioural change is the best way of reducing AIDS and over-emphasising condoms has hindered that, then the shoe's on the other foot. It would be the mainline AIDS organizations that have many deaths on their consciences.

I don't think that's quite equivalent. It's true that if the pope is right, those groups bear responsibility for giving incorrect advice, they were wrong because they didn't know better or perhaps were biased. The pope, if he is wrong, is wrong because of dogma. He is ideologically opposed to condoms wholly separately from the AIDS epidemic.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't distinguish bias so sharply from dogma. I agree that if the pope is right, and the pro-condom people were acting on bad information, then there's no blame. "We did what we could with the information available at the time."

On the other hand, if there was a ideological commitment to (say) Western-style sexual freedom, I would see that as equivalent to the pope's commitment to Catholic dogma. I might want to distinguish a soft dogmatic position from a hard dogmatic position:

Soft dogma:

It is wrong to [interfere with sexual liberty | undermine marital fidelity] by [not distributing | distributing] condoms. Moreover, we're convinced that doing so will cause AIDS to spread more widely than it would otherwise.

If the people holding these beliefs are completely sincere, I'd almost call them blameless, not so different from the first case. But you tend to suspect their sincerity: wondering if their precommitments are causing them to make bad-faith judgements about the facts. An intelligent Catholic, for example, may accept dubious anti-condom arguments ("they have holes!"), which he wouldn't accept if his biases didn't affect his judgement. Sometimes that kind of prejudice can be culpable.

Hard dogma:

It is wrong to [interfere with sexual liberty | undermine marital fidelity] by [not distributing | distributing] condoms. Even if doing so would save lives, it is still impermissible. The principle is more important.

Cases like this much more open condemnation - unless you accept the principle upheld in the dogma. Which opens a whole can of worms, since (as far as I can see) all absolutist arguments are of this form. Absolutist arguments against the use of embryonic stem cells are an example; but so are absolutist arguments against torture.

Anyway, I think the "dogma" argument cuts both ways on the AIDS issue.

i.p.

Anonymous said...

As the person who first posted the link, I am happy to see that it is getting serious discussion.

Anonymous said...

Behavioral changes always work & condoms almost always work, but not always. In cases like rape, none work.

Even if behavioral change is the best way to combat the crisis, I don't see any behaviour changes or return to traditional morality amongst the Catholic French, the Poles, the Italians or the Irish, if anything they seem to be going further away from traditional morality(nothing wrong with that!)
How do they avoid unwanted pregnancies or diseases? Condoms & artificial contraceptives.

Also, whether feminazis have always blamed African men or not, its an unfortuante fact that French women in all probability have greater personal autonomy than most Sub Saharan women(barring some matrilineal tribes) Most Sub Saharan women are often not in a position to refuse their husbands demands for sex. In countries like Swaziland & Zimbabwe, women have a shorter life expectancy than men, which is unnatural. They might marry young & as a virgin, but their older husbands might be infected, passing on the infection to these poor chaste women. Distributing condoms at least to prostitutes & having condoms widely available in markets like Senegal does would give sexually active men the option of using those.

Also Catholic dogma not only preaches against condoms, it also outlaws them wherever Catholicism is unfortunately taken seriously. Condoms are not widely available in Philippines.

As someone who's spent her childhood in Iran, I know how much sex education & family planning work. Iran is a country where Khomeini declared 9 the best age for girls marriage(yes!) but it was also the only country where a couple had to take family planning classes pre marriage.

The result? Iran reduced its birthrate the fastest in the world, now Iranian women marry on avarage at 24, men at 26(earlier the age gap was 7 years)& Iran has a birthrate of only 1.71 children per woman, less than U.S.A. & France.

Teach men & women abstinence by all means as the best policy, but also teach them about condoms, pills & make those widely available. Tell people Abstinence=best policy, but should they have sex, condoms are infinitely preferable to no condoms & infecting their poor, young virgin wives.

Fawzia

shoshi said...

"condoms are infinitely preferable to no condoms & infecting their poor, young virgin wives."

for this reason, I think premarital testing should be made mandatory in those countries. No-one in their right mind would marry their virgin daughter to someone who will transmit her a deadly disease.

Anonymous said...

That Harvard Report & Mr. Green's claims have been dismissed as "ludicrous" by the chief of UN AIDS.
www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5987155.ece

@shoshi,
I wholeheartedly agree with your idea of pre marital testing for AIDS. Sadly it seems many mothers & fathers of brides don't insist on such testing- because in countries like Zimbabwe & Swaziland women have shorter life expectancies-the main reason of this is that they get AIDS from their infected husbands.

Anonymous said...

That Harvard Report & Mr. Green's claims have been dismissed as "ludicrous" by the chief of UN AIDS.
www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5987155.ece


That's a good article, but your take on it is a bit misleading. It's true that the UN's chief AIDS bureaucrat still hews to the conventional wisdom, but everyone else quoted thinks Green is onto something.

Premarital testing etc.? I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but it seems to be founded on assumptions about African sexual behaviour that are not, on the whole, true.

It's becoming clear that one of the factors promoting the spread of AIDS there is the prevalence of multiple, concurrent sexual relationships among large parts of the adult population, especially among more-educated, wealthier classes, and including relationships entered into voluntarily by women. The keyword to listen for is "concurrency". This contradicts the convention wisdom on several points, but it is the emerging consensus.

The notion of HIV-infected men forcing themselves on their innocent brides (who should therefore be encouraged to use condoms for marital sex) is a piece of feminist/progressive folklore. I'm not saying it is never true - any plausible scenario is no doubt true sometimes - but it is generally false. One study, for example, found that in couples where one partner is infected with HIV and other is not, the woman is the infected partner about 30-40 percent of the time. In other words, she got it from someone other than her husband.

It's something we need to get our heads around: patterns of behaviour that are uncommon here, or restricted to small groups, are normal and widespread over there. And differences in the overall pattern can make a huge difference to the spread of STDs (tipping points and all that).

The whole debate about condoms vs. behavioural change is really a question of how to deal with these patterns. Do we (1) insert a technology (condoms + education) or (2) try to change values, typically by invoking religious values held, but not practised, by the population. Or, can we (3) successfully combine the approaches. The condom skeptics have argued that #1 hasn't worked, #2 has to some degree, but #3 is possible only to a limited extent (e.g., targeting prostitutes - who aren't nearly as important a factor as once believed).

Really and truly, the best thing well-meaning Westerners can do about the African AIDS crisis is to chuck their old assumptions and open their eyes, 'cos the cliches are falling like dominoes.

intellectual pariah

Tigerboy said...

So, myth stories about talking snakes are better than unbiased education and proper public health practices?