The Cayman AIDS foundation has recently raised the profile of its campaign to promote condoms as a prophylactic for AIDS, most recently with a front page article in the Caymanian Compass.
The intentions and goals of the Foundation are important and worthy of the support of the whole community.
However, I am concerned by the means that have been chosen to achieve the end.
The promotion of the condom is in theory a simple way to control the spread of AIDS.
Whether it has in fact contributed to the slowing of the pandemic is more than debatable as some recent medical reviews are beginning to indicate.
A report commissioned by UNAIDS in June 2003 determined that condoms were 90 per cent effective (for a summary by the author of the report go to, http://www.usp.br/nepaids/condom.pdf).
Advising someone to use a condom against AIDS then would be similar to telling your friend just before he jumps out of a plane at 20,00 feet, that he shouldn’t worry, his parachute is completely reliable…nine out of 10 times.
The same report determined that the fight against AIDS using condoms was actually failing and then in a manor difficult to justify, managed to conclude that the solution to the problem was more condoms.
Since 1998 more than 4 billion condoms have been shipped to sub-Sahara Africa but between 1997 and 2002 death rates from HIV/AIDS increased by 57 per cent (Sue Ellin Browder, Crisis, June 2006).
The most successful campaign against AIDS in Africa has been engaged in Uganda.
The ABC campaign stresses Abstinence and Being faithful to ones partner and only advocates Condoms for particular high-risk individuals.
And that is only to note some of the data regarding condoms and AIDS.
The failure rate for condoms against syphilis is about 71 per cent and lower for HPV (NE Journal of Medicine).
The premise for the whole issue of using condoms to stop AIDS is that the human person has a profound and inherent dignity, which demands in justice that the life of the individual be preserved if possible.
It is important to be aware then that it is the same mentality that places no faith in the human person, his or her strength, vitality, self-determination and dignity, that promotes the use of the condom.
The very means contradicts the premise.
This becomes clear with the simple acknowledgement that abstinence is the only guaranteed form of protection.
Such being the case there is little justifying a condom campaign except to say the human beings are incapable of controlling themselves and there is no changing their behaviour. That would be to place us on par with brut animals.
It is also somewhat problematic for those who are ‘pro-prophylactic’ in that the use of the condom itself requires a change in behaviour, consistency if nothing else, for it to be effective in the fight against AIDS.
Would it not be better to then, seeing as, one way or the other we need to modify behaviour, to promote the dignity of the human person rather than to diminish it?
Let us not condone the casting off of self-restraint and the exploitation of the human person with its inherent dignity in the all too frequent and casual sexual liaison.
Rather, it is important, no, vital, to promote sincere and lasting relationships with full due regard for the immense value of human love and dignity.
To promote a campaign that emphasizes true human dignity as well as love and responsibility is of course to launch a direct challenge at that luminous article of the Western philosophical constitution, the Sexual Revolution.
It requires us to revisit what we have been taught and continue to be taught about what it really means to be a human person and what real love demands.