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Religious Tolerance logo

Recent battles in the "condom wars"

Events from the year 2003 to 2005

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Some randomly selected events -- year 2003 to 2005:

2003-MAR: Campaign to disparage condoms threatens anti-STD programs:

 

The Alan Guttmacher Institute included an article by Heather Boonstra in the 2003-MAR issue of their Guttmacher Report on Public Policy. She wrote:

"Critics in the HIV and STD prevention communities worry that the conservative crusade to promote abstinence outside of marriage comes at too high a cost. Undermining people's confidence in the effectiveness of condoms threatens people's health and even lives, they argue, since sex among unmarried people is common in the United States and around the world, and achieving correct and consistent condom use is difficult enough. Moreover, they insist, condom critics are selectively citing and intentionally misrepresenting findings from the NIH workshop report to buttress their case; the conclusion that correct condom use does not offer a high degree of protection against the vast majority of STDs, not to mention HIV and unintended pregnancy, is simply not warranted by the science, they say." 10

The essence of their argument is that if people become convinced that condoms are useless in preventing the transmission of STDs or preventing pregnancy, then they won't bother using them. The end result would then be increased STD, increased pregnancies, more abortions and more deaths.

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2003-OCT: Vatican condemns condoms as ineffective against HIV:

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujilo, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family asked health groups to inform the public of the ineffectiveness of condoms in the prevention of HIV transmission. He said:

"The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon [and can] easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom. These margins of uncertainty ...should represent an obligation on the part of the health ministries and all these campaigns to act in the same way as they do with cigarettes, which they state to be a danger."

The World Health Organization [WHO] criticized the cardinal's statement as "dangerous" and "incorrect" in the face of "a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million." They argued that "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV transmission by 90 percent and that "intact condoms . . . are essentially impermeable to the smallest STD virus."

In other areas of the world:

bullet The archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Nzeki, said: "Aids... has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms."

bullet The BBC program Panorama broadcast an episode called Sex and the Holy City. It includes a scene in which a Catholic nun advises her HIV-infected choirmaster against using condoms with his wife because "the virus can pass through."

bullet Gordon Wambi, director of an AIDS testing center in Lwak near Lake Victoria, said he cannot distribute condoms because of church opposition. He said: "Some priests have even been saying that condoms are laced with HIV/Aids."

bullet Panorama found the claims about permeable condoms repeated by Catholics as far apart as Asia and Latin America. 11

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2004-AUG: Conflict in STD prevention philosophy in Uganda:

OneWorld United States reported that:

A U.S. group, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) claimed that there was a shortage in condoms in Uganda. They said that Uganda needs between 120 and 150 million condoms per year but only 32 million had been distributed since 2003-OCT. 

On 2005-AUG-29, Stephen Lewis, the U.N. Secretary-General's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said that part of the shortage had been caused by the U.S. aid programs reduction in condom funding and increased attention to the promoting of abstinence. He said: ''To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa.''

CHANGE asserts that the Bush administration and the office of Uganda's first lady, Janet Museveni, have emphasized abstinence and directed money to religious groups who push it to the detriment of the other two components of the country's anti-AIDS platform, known as ABC for ''Abstinence, Be Faithful, and Condoms.'' A CHANGE report states that: ''Religious fundamentalists, some financially supported by the U.S. government and the office of the first lady Janet Museveni, have become prominent in attacking [the use of] condoms and those who distribute them.''

Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims that critical HIV/AIDS information was being removed from school curricula, including information about condoms, safer sex, and the risks of HIV in marriage. Draft secondary-school materials included false statements to the effect that latex condoms were ineffective at blocking HIV and further described pre-marital sex as a form of ''deviance.'' HRW said teachers told its investigators that U.S. contractors had instructed them not to discuss condoms in class because the new policy was ''abstinence only.'' Additionally, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni publicly condemned condoms as inappropriate for Ugandans. HRW said that Ugandan public health experts, physicians, and AIDS groups had expressed concern about the current and future consequences of what effectively was proving to be a switch to an abstinence-only program.

Contradicting the statements of CHANGE, Mike Mukula, a senior Ugandan health ministry official said: ''We have enough condoms. We just procured 65 million condoms about two months ago and another 80 million is on the way, so there is no shortage of condoms in the country.'' 13

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2005-FALL: Faith-based Organizations (FBO) in Uganda:

An analysis by Karin Fransson and Karin Fransson of the Department of Political Science at Lund University concluded that:

"The Ugandan government used to allow and encourage NGOs to customize HIV prevention messages to the local context, which is credited as an explanation for the declining infection rates. In 2004 the government changed its attitudes towards HIV prevention strategies, and started to focus on abstinence and faithfulness at the expense of condoms."

During 2003-2004, FBOs were able to change the U.S. funded teachers' manual for HIV prevention that was used throughout Uganda. "Information and diagrams, for example illustrating a condom offering protection from HIV, were removed from the initial text, and a chapter on 'ethics, morals and cultural values' was added." The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Ugandan government require secular organizations to mainly promote abstinence and to downplay the use of condoms if they wish to continue receiving U.S. funding.

The Lund University report continues:

"The Bush administration, the religious Right, FBOs, churches and other promoters of abstinence claim that NGOs promoting condoms promote promiscuity and encourage people to have sex. In fact, a UNAIDS report "... found evidence that sexual health education for children and young people that included the promotion of condom use and safer sexual practices, did not increase participant’s sexual activity. Other studies comparing
abstinence-only education with programs including factual information about contraception show the latter to be more effective on all counts. Many non-FBOs agree that encouraging young people to delay sex and reduce their number of sexual partners forms a rational part of any comprehensive approach to HIV prevention. However, they mean this must be complemented with correct information about condoms. Earlier efforts to promote condoms in Uganda have resulted in 'dramatic increases in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors towards condom use, achievements that are widely credited with helping to reduce HIV incidence and sustain relatively low rates of infection.' These achievements are at risk today, however, when the government and FBOs are undermining the credibility of condoms and most non-FBOs are too afraid to promote and distribute condoms. Condom use 'remains to this day the most efficient means of protection against HIV transmission'."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Stuart Shepard, "Olympic Condom Giveaway Decried," Focus on the Family, 2002-FEB-11, at:  http://www.family.org/
  2. Mary Pat Flaherty & Gilbert Gaul, "Red Cross Quits AIDS Effort: Abortion Foes Protested Condom Distribution at Olympics," Washington Post, 2002-FEB-22, Page D12. Online at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  3. Pete Winn, "Powell pushes condoms to youth," Focus on the Family, 2002-FEB-15, at: http://www.family.org/
  4. "Powell backs condom comments," Associated Press, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com
  5. Joseph Doman, "Powell's MTV comments aren't the problem," 2002-FEB-20, Newsday.com at: http://www.newsday.com/
  6. Ken Connor, "Powell's Reckless Remarks Put Young Lives at Risk," Family Research Council's Washington Update to "Friends of Family Research Council." 2002-FEB-15
  7. Ken Connor, "Safe-Sex "Pow-Wow!" Sends Mixed Messages to Public," Family Research Council's Washington Update to "Friends of Family Research  Council." 2002-FEB-18.
  8. Vote.com's web site is, predictably, at: http://www.vote.com/
  9. Ben Taylor, "Dobson Thanks Bush for Abstinence Support," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/
  10. Heather Boonstra "Public Health Advocates Say Campaign to Disparage Condoms Threatens STD Prevention Efforts," Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, Vol. 6, # 1, 2003-MAR, at: http://www.guttmacher.org/
  11. Steve Bradshaw. "Vatican: Condoms don't stop Aids," Guardian newspaper, 2003-OCT-09, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
  12. "Sex, Contraception, Disease and YOU," Life Research Institute, 2000-JAN, at: http://www.geocities.com/
  13. Abid Aslam, "Uganda Disputes Condom Shortage as U.N. Envoy Blames Bush AIDS Policy," OneWorld US, 2005-AUG-29, at: http://us.oneworld.net/
  14. Karin Fransson & Karin Fransson, "Abstinence at the Expense of Condoms?," Lund University, 2005-FALL, at: http://www.solidaritetshuset.nu/ This is a PDF file

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Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-FEB-21
Latest update: 2010-NOV-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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