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Pass the condoms and let's forget ideology

By Kerry L. Marsala
web posted July 19, 2004

What works 100 per cent of the time to prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS? The science of condoms? Or the ideology presented by Ugandan President Yowen Museveni at the AIDS Conference recently held in Bangkok?

President Museveni, whose country Uganda is a success story in Africa's war on AIDS, stated that he, "looked at condoms as an improvisation, not a solution." Museveni stirred the pot further by calling for, "optimal relationships based on love and trust instead of institutionalized mistrust, which is what the condom is all about."

Uganda's implementation of abstinence, faithfulness and condoms has become a model for the AIDS policies. And the efforts of the Ugandan people to abstain until marriage must be working: of the 26.5 million citizens of Uganda 6 per cent of them are now infected, this number is down by 30 per cent since the 1980's.

With 20 million people dead from the AIDS virus and 38 million infected, the ideology of waiting until marriage has certain people like US Representative Barbara Lee (who is the only member of Congress to attend the week long meeting) accusing the 'ideology' method to be nothing more than the Bush administration dictating policy instead of using science. Rep. Lee is quoted in the same Reuters article as stating, " In an age where five million people are newly infected each year and women and girls too often do not have the choice to abstain, an abstinence until marriage program is not only irresponsible, its really inhuman. Abstaining from sex is oftentimes not a choice and therefore their only hope in preventing HIV infection is the use of condoms" (Reuters report on the Global Aids Conference 7/12/04).

I am not sure what Rep. Lee means by "abstaining from sex is oftentimes not a choice", perhaps she means for humans who are sold into sex slavery or rape victims it isn't a choice. In cases of sex slavery and rape the problem isn't making sure condoms are distributed, it's stopping illegal sex slavery organizations and prosecuting sex offenders. Other than that, abstinence from sex is a choice and it is the only 100 per cent defense from contracting the HIV virus.

Is it possible that you can buy a product and stop AIDS from being sexually transmitted? Let us look at the science and take out the ideology for the moment. How effective are condoms, what percentage of them break and what factors contribute to the success of them preventing sexually transmitted diseases?

The success of condom usage various greatly. There are many factors that come into play. Does the person use a condom every time they have sex? Do they put them on properly? Does the condom user remove the condom in the time suggested? Where were the condoms made? Were they tested properly at the manufacturing plant? How long has the person carried them around in their wallets? Were they defective to begin with, but given the stamp of approval for distribution anyway?

Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elder deliberately over saw the distribution of more than one million condoms she knew had more than ten time the failure rate allowed by FDA in Arkansas. In fact, she blocked the FDA's seizure of the defective condoms and the condoms were distributed as freebies without any of the recipients being told of the problem. [1]

So many variables for such a living or dying possibility, all for a moment of pleasure, when our youth is told, "abstaining from sex is oftentimes not a choice."

In a study reported by Dr. Margaret Fishel to the III International Conference on AIDS, married couples with one HIV-free partner, using condoms for protection, tested HIV-positive in 17 per cent of the cases after only a year and a half. Dr. Fishel stated in JAMA, the professional medical journal, "that one in three sexually active persons using condoms would contract HIV, not due to user failure, but due to condom leakage, seepage, breakage, and deterioration." Other studies, including one in 1992 by Carey and printed in the publication, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, "found leakage of HIV-sized particles through 33 per cent of the latex condoms in their test." In another test run by Steiner's, and printed in the 1992 issue of Contraception, they tested old and new lots of condoms. They found, "actual breakage rates of 3.5 per cent to 8.8 per cent in the newer and 9.8 per cent to 18.6 per cent for the older." Dr. Richard Gordon, a researcher and presenter at the AIDS International Conference, reported that he had studied, "live subjects using condoms coated with red dye for tracing purposes." His findings were seminal fluid would seep up and over the rims of intact condoms during intercourse. Thus, condom failures occur quite readily [2].

Even according to Consumer Reports, who did a study and rated condoms found that as a contraceptive, condoms are inexpensive and easy to acquire. But they are far from perfect. Condom reliability in preventing pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases depends on how it's measured. Researches don’t count the number of individual condoms that fail, this would be impossible. They define contraceptive failure as the percentage of women who use a given method but who nonetheless become pregnant over a year's time. "For condoms, the typical failure rate is about 12 per cent," for pregnancies occurring [3]. "If couples used the condoms consistently and correctly, researchers estimate, the failure rate would plummet to 2 per cent to 3 per cent or even less." It is estimated that approximately 2 per cent to 5 per cent of condoms tear during use. "Most of those failures," according to Consumer Reports, "are thought to stem from misuse, not inherent flaws."

According to Consumer Reports, one of the favorite ways of testing condoms for inherent flaws is the water test ("manufactures pour 10 ounces of water into a condom, then press and roll it along blotter paper. If it leaks up to the equivalent of more than 4 per 1,000 condoms in a run, the entire lot must be scraped.") The smallest hole the water can find its way through is still 100 times bigger than the HIV virus, but officials, researchers, and the AIDS activist for science still believe the water test is sufficient enough.

What sense does it make to tout condoms as the super hero of prevention (whether it is pregnancy, AIDS, or other STDS) when it is completely dependent on consistent and correct usage? The studies collective over the decades since the inception of latex condoms shows a significant drop in the rate of the spread of AIDS, but it does not cut it "quite to zero." A review in the 1992 American Journal of Public Health found that, "condoms on the average cut the risk of infection in half." How many more of our youth are we willing to let slide on the science of virtually? I guess when you play sexual roulette with AIDS, 2 per cent to 5 per cent isn't bad for science protection.

Another perspective in the use of condoms to think on as well. If there is a "failure to prevent pregnancy in 18 per cent of couples," in a study reported by Family Planning Perspectives, and "HIV is 450X smaller than sperm" wouldn’t the likely hood of becoming infected by an HIV carrier be just as possible as becoming pregnant with the use of a condom? Even though a woman is really only fertile about nine days out of the month, HIV infection can occur anytime and any day of the year.

Yes, science has brought down our uncontrollable animalistic behaviors to a latex rubber. The percentage rate when all factors of condom usage is followed to a 'T' is almost zero. 2 per cent to 5 per cent is but a nominal number in the grand scheme of all that is sexually ours to enjoy. So why bloviate against ideology? We know abstinence, and monogamy prevent sexually transmitted HIV/AIDS 100 per cent from ever taking another human life. Do we as guardians against AIDS/HIV want to stand in every bedroom and make sure the male is using a fresh, non-defective, appropriately applied condom to guarantee that he is having safe-sex with who ever? No we do not. Just as I am sure we don't want to be placing ourselves between two amorous people telling each to abstain from sex until married. So, what do we do? Do we just set out a colorful bowl full of condoms at our front doors and remind our children as they leave the house not to forget their prophylactic?

Do we go on treating people like animals in heat that cannot control their urges? Do we throw people condoms that aren't 100 per cent guaranteed to save them from AIDS/HIV? Or, do we use common sense and dignity; do we entitle people of all ages with choices? People can choose whether to have sex outside of marriage or they can choose to abstain until married. People can choose to be guaranteed 100 per cent that they will not contract diseases such as AIDS/HIV, Chlamydia, and other horrible Venereal Diseases.

We are human beings, created like no other life on this planet, given free will, and the power to reason, the ability to utilize the precious gift of self-control. We need to teach each and every human being, that they are unique and able to overcome whatever challenges are before them and that includes abstaining until the couple pronounces- 'till death do us part.'

Ideology, what a concept, and it's guaranteed 100 per cent of the time.

Footnotes:

[1] derekcrane.com

[2] Marylin George- Condom Causalities Santa Rosa Education 5/2000

[3] Contraceptive Technology as recorded by Consumer Reports

Kerry L. Marsala is a freelance journalist who is terrible at being patient enough to check punctuation and grammar. She writes for Opinion Editorials; The Rant; Canada Free Press; Independent Newspapers; EV Tribune; ACU Foundation; Canadian Free Press; Sarah's Seed Woman's Journal; A. M. Siriano; Men's News Daily; Lady Liberty; NZ Herald; Citizen Newspaper; amgoodnews.com; Americonservative; TAC; PHX News; The Right Guys; Conservababes; The Alberta Weekly; Conservative Battle Line; Focus Magazine; Insight Online; GOPUSA; and The Truth Magazine.

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