01 January 2013

False Ads on Condoms

Covered Church
After their failed attempt to gather enough support in stopping the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill in Congress, Catholic bishops are resorting to misinformation by claiming that condoms are too porous and do not work in preventing the spread of infection.

The bishops, whose church claims over 80 percent of Filipinos as its followers, have been attacking the government openly after health officials distributed free condoms to mark Valentine's Day. Now, they are trying to raise doubts and questions in order to incite a wave of criticism and opposition to condoms.

Fortunately, the Manila office of the World Health Organization (WHO) was quick to respond and countered that, contrary to the loads of unintelligible claims, good-quality condoms are an extremely effective protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

"The correct and consistent use of good-quality condoms confers a level of protection as high as 85 to 90 percent against HIV transmission," said Dr. Soe Nyunt-U, WHO Representative to the Philippines. "Male and female condoms, when properly kept, stored, handled and used, are the only scientifically proven barrier products currently available against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections."

It is not clear where the medieval ideas written in pastoral letters against condoms were based, but it seems they conveniently failed to mention that fact that the number of newly reported HIV infections increased from one infection every three days in 2000, to one infection per day in 2007, and two infections per day in 2009. Sexual intercourse was the most common mode of transmission, accounting for 90 percent.

Maybe next time the bishops tries to posthumously condemned, vilified and excommunicate all condom sellers and buyers, they should try to examine their evidence first hand. How about trying to wear these condoms in real-life situations, like during the delivery of a homily, to find out if the protection level is indeed below the standards set worldwide.

Because for all their ecclesiastical claims, rational-minded individuals are all in agreement that condoms can help reduce HIV infection rates where AIDS has already taken hold and curtail the broader spread of HIV in settings where the epidemic is both generalized and concentrated. Condoms have also encouraged safer sexual behavior more generally.

"Countries that have implemented robust 100 percent condom-use programs have been able to contain their fast growing HIV epidemics first, and reverse the trend within a relatively short period of time", said Dr. Soe. "Experiences in Thailand and Cambodia are well documented and provide solid evidence that condom use protects against the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections".

It won't hurt the bishops a bit if they just took some time to read and understand the WHO Fact Sheet No. 243 which states: "Laboratory studies have found that viruses (including HIV) do not pass through intact latex condoms even when the devices are stretched or stressed…."