Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Abstinence works! (For the fraction of you who can pull it off...)

Surprise, surprise, a devout Catholic is trying to adamantly oppose the use of condoms for AIDS prevention, and support "abstinence" as a method of confronting the menace.
The Pope has noted, correctly, that giving out condoms is certainly not saving any lives in Africa and is contributing to the problem of AIDS. Think it through properly. What spreads the disease is sexual contact with people who are infected. Distribution of condoms has led to an overall widespread increase in casual sexual contacts, as people have been told that casual sex can now be made "safe". The information that, in a controlled experiment, a condom works as a method of prevention, has to be presented against the actual overall increase in the opportunities for infection to occur. In other words, it's not just "method" that matters but the actual reality. Most sexual encounters with infected people do not occur in the circumstances that the condom-distributors have planned. 

Can you feel the failure!?  No, not yet?  Well, anyway, the fact of the matter is that the effectiveness of condoms in preventing disease is not solely done in a "controlled experiment" that could be said to be irrelevant to the real circumstances in which condoms are used because these studies are done by observing the rate of contraction of a disease for couples that regularly use condoms.  Does she really think that it would be ethical to do an experiment in a laboratory setting to see whether a subject contracts a potentially fatal disease or not?

In short, it doesn't matter whether they use the condoms in circumstances that they haven't planned, because things like that (misuse, for instance) have already been factored in due to the fact that they observing what happens to those who use condoms in the real world, and not in an overly idealized setting.
Remember, only one sexual encounter with an infected person is required to receive this deadly disease. So promotion of any policy that promotes increased sexual encounters is going to increase the overall chances of further AIDS cases day by day. 
Not if, you know, the condoms actually prevent the disease at a rate greater than the increase in sexual encounters.  Unless you are proposing that the idea of safe sex will make these people have sex approximately 10 times as much as before, because the prevention rate is around 90%:  "In studies done on couples where one partner was HIV-positive and the other wasn’t, the infection rate was less than 1% per year for couples who used condoms correctly and consistently; for couples who either used condoms inconsistently or not at all, the infection rates were 10-14% instead. "
Oh, but wait.  Joanna, like many others who try to make this same argument, just simply assumes that the rate of sexual intercourse will increase by the mere mention of condoms.  That they will become promiscuous and have casual sex even though they already do have plenty of casual sex and telling them to "stop it" isn't helping.  My evidence?   None.  How does it feel?
The Church offers a 100 per cent measure that will protect you from AIDS - no sexual contact with an infected person. And this works. In the Philippines, where the first cases of AIDS were reported, the Church's policies were implemented - and it has a miniscule rate of AIDS. In Thailand, condoms were promoted instead, and the death toll from AIDS is high and still rising - and the tragedy of child prostitution has grown to massive proportions.
Your timing is off:  "In Thailand, HIV began with a burst of transmission among injecting drug users, but 90% of transmission soon became heterosexual [23,51]. Public health officials realized that Thailand’s large sex industry was playing a central role and responded with a “100% Condom Program” that mandates brothel owners to enforce condom use in every paid sex act. Uncooperative owners receive sanctions and are identified through STI surveillance among sex workers and clients.
Condom use soon reached over 90% [23], and the proportion of Thai men visiting sex workers fell by about half [52-55]. The government did not directly discourage commercial sex, but mandatory condom use and awareness of risk caused many men to give up the practice. Thai men also reduced their unpaid casual partners [55]. Rates of STIs fell rapidly in Thailand [56], and HIV incidence and prevalence are declining among both young men and pregnant women [56-59]."

As for the Philippines:  "The most frequently cited reason is that commercial sex workers have fewer partners than their counterparts elsewhere. The average is about four per week, according to a new government survey. Other studies suggest that a relatively low proportion of men frequent sex workers.

Experts say other factors may be the small number of intravenous drug users and a low prevalence of ulcerated sexually transmitted diseases -- like syphilis and herpes -- that facilitate transmission of the AIDS virus. Anal sex also appears to be less common"

So, if you propose to fight AIDS by 1. having very few people who are HIV positive and 2. "abstaining" from going to prostitutes, then you might have been right in the Phillipines.  But that sure as hell doesn't help confront the problem in Africa, where they already have a high number of people who are AIDS infected, and where the problem just comes from sex with other people without money changing hands.  The Phillipines just got lucky, and if that ever changes, they will probably get screwed due to the unwillingness to utilize condoms at all. 

On the TV programme we were told that 22 million people had died from AIDS in Africa. The condom policies aren't working. Why not try the alternative which works?
"The condom policies aren't working"?  The condom policies are just getting put into place, and are trying to overcome the "alternative" which was already the default, and wasn't working.

As for the program she was speaking of....for your viewing pleasure.


9 comments:

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Reminds me of a conversation I had several years ago. An associate and a medical resident both of whom described themselves as born again, were on my case for supporting educating teens in the use of condoms. They of course viewed this as support for sinful behavior and I felt (and still do) that being realistic about protecting teens from some of the consequences of impulsive decision-making was an adult thing to do. They never appreciated my sense of humor - they accused me of advocating premarital sex and I responded that thus far it seemed to be doing fine without advocacy...

What was ironic, and which I was too polite to bring up at the time, was that one of those individuals had been a real hell-raiser in his youth and had cut a swath through a major university.

Later when we were alone I confronted him on that fact. I asked him how he, of all people, could be ignorant of the fact that young people often do things that their older selves would not. Was he not an example of why we needed to provide safeguards to teens? After all, if he had gotten AIDS before his conversion it might have put a damper on his plans. We didn't talk much after that.
Maybe this is why I blog - I'm too big of a pain in the --- in real life...

Stacy said...

This Pope is a moron.

@ Pliny - you did the right thing.

mac said...

" I would say to the prostitute, 'you don't have to have sex with him"
Not much of a prostitute then, is she?

"It won't work when the boy is drunk, fumbling and brutal"
Yeah? Neither will abstinance !

People are going to have sex. Even the theists must admit this( their god designed us that way). Why not help them have safer sex?

mac said...

Well, that, and, I'm sure that lady has no abstinence problems whatsoever ;-)

Asylum Seeker said...

" they accused me of advocating premarital sex and I responded that thus far it seemed to be doing fine without advocacy..."

Truth. And, as was the case in your story, it seems that it happens to people who themselves advocate keeping people ignorant about how to go about doing safely. Maybe they get a thrill from such risky behavior and don't want to deprive the children from the unbounded joy that is naive, uninformed, unprotected sex and denying at every point afterwards that you would do such a thing. We are robbing the newest generation of their rights to be hypocrites!

"This Pope is a moron."

I think the Pope is one person that we don't need to apply Hanlon's razor to. We don't need to assume that he's stupid; it's pretty clear that he is evil. I mean, just look at him. He looks like what you would get if you had shriveled up the previous Pope and gave him a dose of Joker Venom. And, on his better days, he looks like Emperor Palpatine. Factor in that he is in charge of the largest, oldest, and richest religious crazy house on Earth, with the most sordid history and the most influence over other people, and you've got yourself supervillian material. He's like Lex Luthor, aged 30 years and dressed in overly ornate drag.

""It won't work when the boy is drunk, fumbling and brutal"
Yeah? Neither will abstinance !"

Heh. Good point. It's nice to see that she thinks that condoms being impractical in worst case scenarios counts as a rebuttal, when abstinence is pretty much impractical all around.

Harvey said...

Having sex with a condom is "birth control". God forbids this. STD's are God's punishment for thinking about preventing conception during intercourse, especially if you do it out of wedlock and enjoy it! (My paraphrase of the Pope's reasoning in condemning the use of condoms). Anyway, only perverts, whores (and their customers), and sinners (plus those poor folks who happen to be married to sinners and don't realize they have brought home an STD) AND the unfortunate offspring of those who have contracted God's punishment for their sins (punishment unto the tenth generation?) need to worry about any of this.

Mandar Malum said...

The idea of people trying to teach abstinence only is simply showing the the stupidity of conservatives...

This idea is proven when you look no further than Sarah Palin's daughter and the other hick towns across the country where pregnancy rates are extream... This also dosent help with the STD prevention....

oneblood said...

The woman brings up an astoundingly good point. Right or wrong, what if someone chooses to be with a person who has HIV or AIDS. Let's say they're married, and have converted to Catholicism.

Abstain! Abstain!

The abstinence issue works within a given paradigm. But life doesn't fit into that paradigm.

-----------------------------------

We need to teach people uneducated about sex that it is not the only method of birth control but that it's the most effective.

These are our fellow human beings. They have a right to be entrusted with the freedom to choose actions that may involve risk to themselves. That's part of what being human is about.

Asylum Seeker said...

" Anyway, only perverts, whores (and their customers), and sinners (plus those poor folks who happen to be married to sinners and don't realize they have brought home an STD) AND the unfortunate offspring of those who have contracted God's punishment for their sins (punishment unto the tenth generation?) need to worry about any of this."

You forgot about the guy who happens to share a needle with perverts, whores, whores' customers, sinners, sinners' monogamous partners, or any of their unfortunate offspring. God hates reuse.

"This idea is proven when you look no further than Sarah Palin's daughter and the other hick towns across the country where pregnancy rates are extream"

I know. I find it hard to believe that they don't notice this and won't admit. But they still insist that their idea of condom distribution increasing promiscuity and all of the problems associated with it still takes precedence over that.

"We need to teach people uneducated about sex that it is not the only method of birth control but that it's the most effective.

These are our fellow human beings. They have a right to be entrusted with the freedom to choose actions that may involve risk to themselves."

More truth. I don't think I can handle it. It's too much.