Friday, April 10, 2009

The Alligator: The War on Condoms

The Alligator: The War on Condoms

The Pope’s comments that the distribution of condoms “increases” the problem of AIDS caused a media and diplomatic storm across the globe. In an investigation spanning three continents, Mike Webb spoke to the world’s foremost Catholic theologians and AIDS scientists to discover why the Pope said what he did, and whether the latest research might, controversially, support his claims.

It's an interesting article, although I don't really agree with it.

First, the argument is based on a general social assessment (which may or may not be accurate). In any give individual sex act, condoms without doubt decrease HIV transmission. Given the usual laserlight concentration on individual acts in Catholic teaching this really does seem odd.

Second, neither he pope nor the theologians questioned in the article address the use of condoms by gay or MSM men. Here the evidence that using condoms reduces transmission is clear.

In fact, or at least as far as I can see, the best (i.e. most effective and realistic) way to stop HIV transmission in the is to provide early and complete Anti-Retroviral treatment since people with non-detectable viral loads are massively less likely to transmit the virus whatever they do sexually. Equally useful would be to promote male circumcision, as the skin growth over the exposed glans penis seems to provide real protection.

On a wider level Catholic theology of sex is still caught up with its Platonic notion of finality. This seems to me to be mistaken: sex between lovers achieves its goal immediately in the human connection made, not through some quest for immortality. I do acknowledge that a lot of actual sex would be deficient either way.

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