Monday, March 30, 2009

"I'm a Liberal and It’s Difficult to Admit, But About AIDS Prevention in Africa, the Pope Is Indeed Right."

Just who is that has their heads stuck in the sand when it comes to the matter of AIDS prevention in Africa? Anthony McCarthy, Research Fellow at the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics (London and Oxford) argues that it's not the Pope but rather his dangerously naive critics whose only solution is shipping in more crates of condoms.

Here's his brief article in the Telegraph (U.K.) explaining why the naive indifference to reforming sexual practices in the direction of abstinence and monogamy is dooming AIDS prevention plans to failure.

Dr. Greg Gardner, our friend and pro-life colleague over in Birmingham, England, alerted me to the McCarthy piece and to a couple of others well worth your reading. They too give you a perspective in which the crucial relevance of sexual morality is emphasized -- and not merely because sexual morality is "right" but because it also works!

For instance, in "AIDS and the Churches," written by Edward C. Green and Allison Herling Ruark and published by First Things last year, the authors point out that what the purely secular approach to preventing AIDS is, in fact, preventing are solutions to the crisis.

"...One must ask whether they are more concerned with upholding a Western notion of sexual freedom or with saving lives. Their concern over any prevention approach that might be “moralistic” causes them to miss entirely the evidence for the remarkable success of sexual-behavior change in reducing HIV infections. They miss, as well, the crucial contribution of faith communities to HIV prevention, even while they are producing a report on the role of faith communities in the HIV crisis."

It's an excellent, detailed and very illuminating article...particularly illuminating if all you've heard about the issue comes from network news or other MSM reports.

Finally, Greg notes that these remarkable statements from Dr. Edward Green (Director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard School of Public Health and Center for Population and Development Studies) have been...ahem...overlooked by the press. They come from an interview with Ilsussidiario.

Q: 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 ?

A: 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)

Q: 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?

A: 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.

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

A: 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...