Byline: Jeffrey Kuhner, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Pope Benedict XVI is under fire for reiterating the Catholic Church's opposition to condom use while on his first pilgrimage to Africa. The pontiff told reporters that condoms are not the solution to the AIDS epidemic ravaging the continent; rather, they aggravate the problem.
His comments sparked a firestorm. My reaction is that this represents a major step backward in terms of global health education, is entirely counterproductive, and is likely to lead to increases in HIV infection in Africa and elsewhere, said Quentin Sattentau, a professor of immunology at Britain's Oxford University.
Even the French government got involved. While it is not up to us to pass a judgment on the doctrines of the church, we consider that such remarks put in danger public health policy and imperative needs regarding the protection of human life, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. We can always count on the French to fight - to the last man, if necessary - for the right to strap on a plastic rubber for recreational sex.
However, Pope Benedict simply restated the church's long-held view that sexual abstinence and fidelity within traditional marriage is the most effective way to prevent the spread of HIV infection. He is right: AIDS is a disease caused by behavior; it is not hereditary or genetic. HIV is most commonly transmitted by sex between men, intravenous drug use and heterosexual sex. It is a disease that primarily plagues homosexuals, drug users and those who engage in promiscuous sex with multiple, overlapping partners. Correcting these behaviors will dramatically curb the HIV infection rate.
Moreover, distributing condoms has not been effective but has only made the situation worse. Nearly 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV. The AIDS crisis threatens the continent's economic and social stability. Africa is short on many things - food, water, good governance - but condoms is not one of them. United Nations, health and family planning agencies have relentlessly promoted them for years. Yet, condoms are not the solution for one simple reason: Their use encourages reckless sexual activity, a major source of the pandemic.
Contrary to the claims of so-called experts, condoms are not infallible. Many of them break, tear or come off during intercourse. Wearing a condom while having sex outside of marriage is a form of Russian roulette - a high-stakes game that comes with a potentially devastating price.
Birth control leads to higher rates of sexual activity. Condoms create the illusion that they offer protection from the moral and physical consequences of sex. Hence, individuals increasingly engage in permissive, risky behavior, expanding their appetite for more sexual pleasure. The result is a sex-obsessed, promiscuous culture in which sometimes condoms are used and other times they're not, depending on the person's mood.
Thus, AIDS is metastasizing across Africa because too many people have no regard for their bodies, and are willing to engage in deadly behavior. All the condoms in the world will not change this dysfunctional culture. Only a spiritual revival - one that is being led by the Catholic Church - can ultimately alter hearts, minds and actions. …