In the face of the humanity's greatest plague, and growing evidence that genuine faith-based abstinence works, what is the response of the liberal media? The BBC unveiled its own method of HIV/AIDS prevention by lashing out at the Pope on the 25th anniversary of his pontificate, and promoting condoms.
Condoms are an ineffective method of HIV/AIDS prevention. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has just essentially admitted this fact itself. “Promoting condoms as providing 100 per cent protection could inadvertently encourage high-risk behavior,” states UNFPA in its 2003 State of World Population report. Ironically, UNFPA has shipped millions of defective condoms into Africa. It's admission, though welcomed, is an understatement.
The AIDS virus is transmitted from one person to another by contact with an infected person's body fluids. In Africa, the Caribbean, and many parts of the world, sexual contact was, until recently, believed to be the primary means of transmission. This is why barrier methods of birth control, chiefly the condom, were early pressed into service to combat the epidemic.
Over the past 20 years, HIV/AIDS prevention programs have centered on the large-scale distribution of condoms. These have been combined with “safe sex” propaganda campaigns aimed at convincing the public that putting a layer of latex between sexual partners can guarantee protection against infection by the HIV/AIDS virus. Population Services International (PSI), a USAID-funded group, uses aggressive and ubiquitous advertising campaigns to flood the media with a pro-condom message. These “safe sex” campaigns involve, to use PSI's own martial language, a constant “barrage of radio spots and films shown on television, in cinema halls, and on [PSI's] fleet of mobile film vans” all extolling the perfect protection afforded by condom usage.
But the “safe-sex” approach, designed to induce “behavioral change” (wearing a condom), has not been effective in reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS. A study published in the Lancet and reported in AIDS Weekly found that promoting safer-sex made no difference in a Ugandan intervention trial. Numerous studies, on the other hand, have repeatedly shown that promoting abstinence and being faithful to a single sexual partner resulted in significant declines in HIV incidence.
On the macro level, there is no evidence that throwing boatloads of condoms at the epidemic has had any positive impact. Over the course of the nineties, USAID shipped approximately 5 billion condoms abroad. Billions of others came from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UK's Overseas Development Agency, and other providers. Yet, despite this flood of condoms into the developing world, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection continued to grow at startling rates. The number of victims has increased one thousand-fold, from just over 40,000 in 1990 to over 40 million in 2000. Why is this?
One answer may be suggested by a review of the scientific evidence on condom effectiveness conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Citing a study by Davis and Weller, NIH postulated that condoms, if consistently and properly used, provide an 85% reduction in HIV/AIDS transmission risk. While no one would deny that this reduction in risk is significant, it is far from being the perfect protection promised by the “safe sex” propaganda funded by USAID. Even paved with condoms, the road to promiscuity still leads to death.
The failure of condoms to provide perfect protection against HIV/AIDS is also suggested by studies of condom use for the prevention of pregnancy. Approximately 3% of couples who reported using condoms consistently and correctly (considered “perfect use”) are estimated to experience an unintended pregnancy during the first year of use. If sperm can find their way around the latex barrier, then so, presumably, can the AIDS virus.
To further complicate matters, the presumed protection resulting from using a condom may lead to behavioral changes that completely negate the protection. For example, an individual who believes that consistent and correct use of condoms provides near-absolute protection against HIV/AIDS may engage in recklessly promiscuous behavior that they would otherwise avoid. Why? Because they have been led to believe that, by practicing “safe sex,” they are immune from contracting the disease. In this way, the rate of HIV/AIDS transmission may not be reduced at all by the “safe sex” message, but actually increase over time.
A recent article in the Lancet suggested that a condom-based approach, by creating a false sense of security on the part of users, had not only failed to stop the spread of AIDS, but had actually exacerbated the problem. The authors drew a parallel with the seat belt law that was projected to dramatically decrease the number of traffic fatalities. Instead, the number of deaths remained roughly the same, as drivers took risks they previously would have avoided because they felt safer. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, despite massive shipments of condoms overseas, the rate of HIV/AIDS infections continues to grow.
And so we come full circle. Family planning programs instituted to reduce fertility rates have actually contributed, in various ways, to the spread of AIDS. Africans can be forgiven for wondering if this was an intended consequence, for it was surely an avoidable one.
(Steven W. Mosher is President of the Population Research Institute, and author of Hegemon: China’s Plan to Dominate Asia and the World.)