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AIDS or Aids, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is a collection of symptoms and infections in humans resulting from the specific damage to the immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- In the end one cannot avoid the conclusion that AIDS unites certain human themes — homosexuality, sexual disease, and death — about which society actively resists enlightenment. These are things that we are unwilling to address or even think about. We don't want to understand them. We would rather fear them.
- Martin Amis, "Making Sense of AIDS" (1985), in The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America (1986).
- AIDS was diagnosed and recognized as a new disease in 1981 in the USA with the subsequent discovery of HIV-1 as the causative agent in 1983 . The two types of HIV identified to date, HIV-1 and HIV-2, display similar morphology, tropism, and modes of transmission; however, they are genetically and antigenically divergent [58, 59]. HIV-1 is responsible for over 95% infections worldwide, and the different strains of HIV-1 are classified into four groups: major (M), non-outlier (N), outlier (O), and P. The group M HIV-1 is the predominant circulating strain responsible for >90% infections worldwide, and hence, for the global HIV/AIDS epidemic; viruses belonging to the other three groups are endemic in certain African countries and cause fewer infections. HIV arose from cross-species zoonotic transmissions of simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV) from monkeys to great apes and ultimately to humans. Four independent cross-species transmissions of SIV from chimpanzees (SIVcpz) or gorillas (SIVgor) to humans gave rise to the four HIV-1 groups: M and N from SIVcpz, and O and P from SIVgor. Notably, the pandemic HIV-1 group M strain arose in Cameroon almost a century ago from a single transmission event involving an SIVcpz-infected chimpanzee and a human. The group M strains are further classified into nine subtypes (A, B, C, D, F, G, H, J, and K); each subtype is genetically distinct but phylogenetically equidistant from each other. Two or more of these subtypes can further recombine their genetic material to generate mosaic strains known as circulating recombinant forms (CRFs); around 97 CRFs have been reported to date. The globally dominant HIV-1 subtype C accounts for nearly 50% infections worldwide and is concentrated in Southern Africa and India. The HIV-1 subtype B is dominant in the Americas, Western Europe, and Australasia, and accounts for around 10% global infections. Unlike HIV-1, HIV-2 is largely endemic in West Africa, although the virus has spread to other parts of world in the past decade. Approximately 1-2 million of the PLHIV are infected with HIV-2. The different strains of HIV-2 are classified into nine different groups-A to I, which arose from nine independent cross-species transmission events involving the SIV from sooty mangabey monkeys (SIVsmm). Relative to HIV-1 infection, HIV-2 infection is generally marked by lower viral load, longer asymptomatic period, slower target cell depletion and disease progression, and lower transmission rates [68–75]. However, in the absence of cART, HIV-2 infection eventually leads to AIDS and, ultimately, death.
- Muthukumar Balasubramaniam, Jui Pandhare, and Chandravanu Dash; ”Immune Control of HIV”, J Life Sci, 2019 Jun; 1(1): 4–37.
- A tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.
- Benedict said condoms were not “a real or moral solution” to the AIDS epidemic, adding, “that can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.” But he also said that “there may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.”
- Pope Benedict XVI, ”Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times”, as quoted in Rachel Donadio and Laurie Goodstein; “In Rare Cases, Pope Justifies Use of Condoms”, New York Times, (Nov. 20, 2010)
- The most authoritative recent report is by the US National Institute of Health which concluded: "Intact condoms are essentially impermeable to the smallest sexually transmitted virus, and that the consistent use of male condoms protects against HIV/AIDS transmission." The World Health Organisation insists it is imperative to continue promoting condoms for HIV prevention.
- Steve Bradshaw, "SEX and the HOLY CITY", BBC News. (Retrieved 2016-02-14).
- What's really heartbreaking is that the sisters here seem kind, they seem intelligent, they're hard working and they could be the front line in the war against AIDS, and yet what they're doing is peddling rumour and superstition, and the question is really, who has made them believe it? We've come across what the WHO calls "The dangerous allegation that condoms let HIV through before." The Archbishop of Nairobi had put his name to a pamphlet making the claim, and we'd heard the story from Catholics in two other continents, from the Head of the Pro Life Clinics in Manila City.
- Steve Bradshaw, "SEX and the HOLY CITY", BBC News. (Retrieved 2016-02-14).
- When AIDS was at its most brutal, frightening, my-God-what-are-we-going-to-do era, that was when vampire stories and stories about blood and trust swept the literary world.
- Our more recent work (in progress) provides further evidence on the intricate development effects of the Christian influence in Africa (Cagé & Rueda 2016b). We study the role played by early missionary investments in sub-Saharan Africa to explain HIV/AIDS prevalence nowadays.
On the one hand, missionaries were the first to invest in medicine in a number of countries. The history of modern medicine in sub-Saharan Africa is indeed closely linked to the development of missionary activity. According to the World Missionary Atlas (Beach and Fahs 1925), there were 150 missionary physicians in Africa in 1925, and more than 235 nurses working with nearly 500 trained native nurses in 116 hospitals and 366 dispensaries.
Moreover, the early Christian provision of health care persisted after colonisation and is particularly influential in the design of health care in poor countries (Idler 2014).
On the other hand, health investments are not the only way through which missionary activity may have affected the propagation of HIV/AIDS. Christian values also affect sexually transmitted diseases and there is quantitative and historical evidence that missionaries actively changed sexual behaviours (Vaughan 2007, Doyle 2013, Mantovanelli 2014).
We show that the net effect of proximity to historical mission settlements on HIV prevalence is negative. As seen in Figure 4, regions far from missions tend to have less HIV prevalence today. This general correlation cannot be fully captured by the fact that missions tend to be located in what are today more densely populated areas, or by any other geographical determinant of missionary activity. However, this negative effect can be captured by negative perceptions of condom use and contraception. Among regions historically close to missionary settlements, proximity to a health investment is associated with lower prevalence rates, more acceptance of contraception, and lower exposure to risky behaviours, such as buying the services of sex workers.
- Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda; “The devil is in the detail: Christian missions’ heterogeneous effects on development in sub-Saharan Africa”, VOXEU.org, (04 March 2017)
- Transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) primarily occurs across mucosal surfaces. In particular, the rectum and colon mucosa are important as a portal of entry and during early disease progression, respectively. In the United States, 66% of all new HIV infections in 2017 were in men who have sex with men (MSM), with receptive anal intercourse being the main mode of transmission. Substantial gut microbiome compositional shifts have been previously described in HIV-infected populations; however, we now know the most prominent compositional changes are associated with sexual behavior. The MSM gut microbiome is dominated by Prevotella species compared with the Bacteroides-rich microbiome of culturally westernized men who have sex with women (MSW). Microbiome shifts associated with HIV infection are more subtle, typically require a large cohort to observe, and have been linked with low current and nadir CD4+ T cell counts and viremia. Our group investigated HIV-associated microbiome compositional effects on immune activation in vitro 9 and recently published an evaluation of the effects of human fecal microbiota transplant on immune activation in a gnotobiotic mouse model. These studies revealed the fecal microbiota of MSM, regardless of HIV status, elevates immune activation over that seen with the fecal microbiota of MSW. Additionally, we observed that the MSM microbiota enhanced in vitro HIV infection. Here, the discussion will focus on the question, can the microbiota of MSM influence HIV transmission? We provide additional data that suggests the unique gut microbiota in MSM drives the influx of a population of CD4+ T cells expressing the HIV co-receptor CCR5 into the gut, supporting a link between the gut microbiota in HIV-negative MSM, the mucosal immune environment, and HIV transmission.
- Sara L. Coleman, C. Preston Neff, Sam X. Li, Abigail J.S. Armstrong , Jennifer M. Schneider, Sharon Sen; “Can gut microbiota of men who have sex with men influence HIV transmission?”, Gut Microbes, (10 Feb 2020), Volume 11, Issue 3, pp.610-619.
- In the United States, most new HIV infections are the result of unprotected RAI with a risk rate of 138 per 10,000 exposures. The CDC lists in order of effectiveness (least to greatest) circumcision of adult males, male condom use, daily PrEP for HIV-negative individuals, and ART for HIV-positive individuals as strategies for the prevention of new HIV infections. Randomized clinical trials conducted among men in sub-Saharan Africa support male circumcision for reducing HIV transmission for the insertive partner during anal intercourse; however, as circumcision trials have not included a large enough number of MSM and many MSM practice both insertive and receptive anal intercourse, the CDC did not definitely conclude that male circumcision reduces risk of HIV acquisition in MSM practicing receptive anal sex.
- Sara L. Coleman, C. Preston Neff, Sam X. Li, Abigail J.S. Armstrong , Jennifer M. Schneider, Sharon Sen; “Can gut microbiota of men who have sex with men influence HIV transmission?”, Gut Microbes, (10 Feb 2020), Volume 11, Issue 3, pp.610-619.
- Pope Benedict XVI has said that condom use can be justified in some cases to help stop the spread of AIDS, the Vatican’s first exception to a long-held policy banning contraceptives. The pope made the statement in interviews on a host of contentious issues with a German journalist, part of an unusual ef-fort to address some of the harshest criticisms of his turbulent papacy.
The pope’s statement on condoms was extremely limited: he did not approve their use or suggest that the Roman Catholic Church was beginning to back away from its prohibition of birth control. In fact, the one example he cited as a possibly appropriate use was by male prostitutes.
Still, the statement was something of a milestone for the church and a significant change for Benedict, who faced intense criticism last year when, en route to AIDS-plagued Africa, he said condom use did not help prevent the spread of AIDS, only abstinence and fidelity did.
- Rachel Donadio and Laurie Goodstein; “In Rare Cases, Pope Justifies Use of Condoms”, New York Times, (Nov. 20, 2010)
- As individual and unpredictable as this illness seems to be, the one thing I found I could say with certainty was this: AIDS makes things more intensely what they already are.
- Mark Doty Heaven’s Cost.
- I’ve made three documentary films on subject of AIDS in Africa. My particular love is the country of Uganda, it’s one of the countries that I love most in the world. There was a period when Uganda had the worst incidence of HIV/AIDS in the world. But through an amazing initiative called ABC: Abstinence, Be faithful, Correct use of condoms... Those three – I am not denying that abstinence is a very good way of not getting AIDS, it really is, it works. So does being faithful, but so do condoms! And do not deny it! And this Pope not satisfied with saying: “Condoms are against our religion. Please consider first abstinence, second being faithful to your partner,” he spreads that lie that condoms actually increase the incidence of AIDS. He actually makes sure that aid is conditional on saying “no” to condoms. I have been to – there is a hospital in Bwindi in the west of Uganda where I do quite a lot of work – it is unbelievable, the pain and suffering you see.
- Stephen Fry Abridged Intelligence² debate speech: ["The Catholic church is a force for good in the world", (November 7th 2009)
- On December 22, 1986, finding I was body positive, I set myself a target: I would disclose my secret and survive Margaret Thatcher. I did. Now I have set my sights on the millennium and a world where we are all equal.
- Derek Jarman At Your Own Risk.
- “We can actually learn a lot about safety guidelines by listening to producers of porn,” said Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the School of Public Health at Rutgers University. “Thinking back to the H.I.V./AIDS crisis, the adult film industry had to learn how to keep their workers safe.”
He recommends fol-lowing its lead by using what he calls the Four Ts: Target, Test, Treat and Trace. The adult film industry uses a nationwide program called PASS, for Performer Availability Screening Services, that requires performers to be tested every 14 days for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted infections in order to be cleared for work. If a worker tests positive, he’s treated, and his partners are traced.
- Perry N. Halakitis as quoted by Michele C. Hollow in “Lessons on Coronavirus Testing From the Adult Film Industry”, New York Times, (June 18, 2020)
- The discovery of AIDS as a sexually transmitted disease in the 1980s brought about the popularity of condoms as a contraceptive and as a use of prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. They now could be found in most stores in Europe and America and are increasingly more common in developing countries.
- Fahd Khan, Saheel Mukhtar, Ian K. Dickinson, and Seshadri Sriprasad; “The story of the condom”, Indian J Urol. 2013 Jan-Mar; 29(1): 12–15
- More than 80 percent of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections are transmitted via sexual intercourse. And researchers may have discovered at least one reason why. According to a new study published in Cell, a component of human semen may facilitate the spread of the virus by targeting immune system cells, in some cases making the pathogen up to 100,000 times more virulent.
The team of German scientists had initially set out to determine if semen contained factors that inhibit the HIV infection. "We were not expecting to find an enhancer, and we were even more surprised about the strength," says report co-author Frank Kirchhoff, a virologist at the University of Ulm Clinic in Germany. "Most enhancers have maybe a two- or three-fold effect, but here the effect was amazing—more than 50-fold and, under certain conditions, more than 100,000-fold."
- Frank Kirchhoff as quoted in ”Male Semen Makes HIV More Potent”, by Nikhil Swaminathan, Scientific American, (December 14, 2007)
- … condoms are about as effective against AIDS as a twenty-four-chamber gun instead of a six-chamber gun when playing Russian roulette.
- Peter Kreeft "Ecumenical Jihad", Ignatius Press, (1996)
- HIV is still a problem worldwide, and the more we learn about what makes certain populations more susceptible to HIV, the more we can help. Understanding that biological component, whether it’s in women or in men, helps us define ways that we can help modulate that.
- Laurel Lagenaur, as quoted in “Your sexual partners can change your microbiome, a new study in mice finds”, by Kate Sheridan, “Stat”, (April 5, 2019)
- [Josh, with Henry Rios] "Do you want to?" he whispered.
I raised myself on my elbow and said, "Of course I do, but I haven't carried rubbers with me since I was sixteen."
"Just this once," he said. "You could pull out before - you know."
I squeezed his neck between my fingers. "No," I said softly. "There's AIDS, Josh. It's not worth the risk."
- Michael Nava, "Goldenboy" (1988), at p.123
- I can't write about love in the same way we've been writing about it, because it ain't the same deal anymore. "You Can't Do That"'s kind of tongue in cheek about some very serious stuff. This is no joke here folks - you've got to be a little careful.
- K.T. Oslin, KT Oslin offers truth in her tunes: Country singer dares to attempt crossover, The Spokesman Review, (July 20, 1993)
- AIDS is a world epidemic, a public-health problem that must be confronted with scientific advances and methods that have proven effective. Rejecting condom use is to oppose the fight for life.
- Fr. Valeriano Paitoni as quoted in Alsan, Marcella (April 2006). "The Church & AIDS in Africa: Condoms & the Culture of Life". Commonweal: A Review of Religion, Politics, and Culture. 133 (8). Archived from the original on 2006-08-21. Retrieved 2006-11-28.
- Since the mid-1970s, more than 30 new diseases have emerged, including AIDS, Ebola, Lyme disease and SARS. Most of these are believed to have moved from wildlife to human populations.
- Mary Pearl president of the Wildlife Trust in a Newsweek magazine interview. Awake! magazine, article: "Will Science Cure the World?", (January 2007).
- In 1984, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler announced at a press conference in Washington, DC, that scientists had successfully identified the virus that later became known as HIV -- and predicted that a preventative vaccine would be ready for testing in two years. Nearly four decades and 32 million deaths later, the world is still waiting for an HIV vaccine. Instead of a breakthrough, Heckler's claim was followed by the loss of much of a generation of gay men and the painful shunning of their community in Western countries. For many years, a positive diagnosis was not only a death sentence; it ensured a person would spend their final months abandoned by their communities, while doctors debated in medical journals whether HIV patients were even worth saving.
The search didn't end in the 1980s. In 1997, President Bill Clinton challenged the US to come up with a vaccine within a decade. Fourteen years ago, scientists said we were still about 10 years away.
The difficulties in finding a vaccine began with the very nature of HIV/AIDS itself. "Influenza is able to change itself from one year to the next so the natural infection or immunization the previous year doesn't infect you the following year. HIV does that during a single infection," explains Paul Offit, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist who co-invented the rotavirus vaccine.
"It continues to mutate in you, so it's like you're infected with a thousand different HIV strands," Offit tells CNN. "(And) while it is mutating, it's also crippling your immune system."
- Rob Picheta, “What happens if a coronavirus vaccine is never developed? It has happened before”, CNN (Updated 9:39 AM ET, Sun May 3, 2020)
- The sexual revolution of the 60’s almost put an end to condom use. “Good girls” were willing sex partners, so fewer men turned to professional sex workers, the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections – gonorrhea and syphilis – were easily treated, and the pill and IUD provided the most effective reversible contraception the world had seen (Valdiserri, 1988).
When the virus that can cause AIDS was identified, it became clear that condom use and other methods of safer sex could stem the epidemic. Many public health professionals believe that local, state, and federal governments have ignored or denied the severity of the problem, and have behaved a lot like the social hygenists of the World War I generation (Brandt, 1985).
Until 2010, about $100 million in federal funds was spent annually for abstinence-only sexuality education designed to discourage unmarried young people, regardless of sexual orientation, from having sex. None of this money was allowed to be used for any program that talked about the effectiveness of condoms to reduce the chances of infection or unintended pregnancy among those young people who are already sexually active. Meanwhile, 50 percent of all HIV infections occur among people under the age of 25, and 63 percent of infections among those between the ages of 13 and 19 are among women (NIAIAD 2001).
- Planned Parenthood, “A History of Birth Control Methods “, p.6
- We owe it to Ryan to make sure that the fear and ignorance that chased him from his home and his school will be eliminated. We owe it to Ryan to open our hearts and our minds to those with AIDS. We owe it to Ryan to be compassionate, caring and tolerant toward those with AIDS, their families and friends. It's the disease that's frightening, not the people who have it.
- Ronald Reagan, "We Owe It to Ryan". The Washington Post, (January 11, 1990).
- In the early '80s, the public discourse about AIDS was divisive and ugly. Some elected officials said the disease was God's revenge on people who lived a certain lifestyle. The federal government wouldn't fund research for a cure. But, today, the NIH spends $1.8 billion on AIDS research annually, and the virus is no longer an epidemic in this country.
So, how did we get from that climate of fear and animosity in the early '80s to where we are today? Well, it's by the extraordinary efforts of ordinary individuals, then change occurred, as it has time and time again throughout our history.
- In 1984, the government spent zero dollars on AIDS research, because AIDS was thought to be a death sentence, and the virus was far too complicated to deal with. Today, the government spends annually $1.8 billion a year on research, and people who would have been dead four or five years ago now have the virus virtually undetectable in their bloodstream, and they're living normal lives.
That was something thought impossible until we put money and talent together and aimed it toward a problem.
- Christopher Reeve, “REHABILITATION RESEARCH - NO REASON TO HOLD BACK”, VA REHABILITATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE, CRYSTAL CITY, VIRGINIA. (February 21, 2000)
- During the darkest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when Republicans and religious conservatives controlled the federal government and were doing everything in their power to harm the sick and dying, queers organized and protested and volunteered and mourned. We also made music and theater and art. We took care of each other, and we danced and loved and fucked. Embracing joy and art and sex in the face of fear and uncertainty made us feel better—it kept us sane—and it had the added benefit of driving our enemies crazy. They couldn’t understand how we could be anything but miserable, given the challenges we faced—their greed, their indifference, their bigotry—but we created and experienced joy despite their hatred and despite this awful disease. We turned to each other—we turned to our lovers and friends and sometimes strangers—and said, "Fuck them. Now fuck me."
- Last year about 60 Catholic groups wrote an open letter to Benedict urging him to reverse the Vatican\'s opposition to contraception.
The ban on condoms "exposes millions of people to the risk of contracting the AIDS virus," they said.
- SBS News, "Condoms \'not the answer to AIDS\': Pope", (23/08/2013)
- There are many who wish to believe that premarital sex causes venereal diseases, that homosexuality causes AIDS... This is simply not true; infectious diseases are caused by infectious agents.
- P. Skrabanek, "Preventive Medicine and Morality," Lancet 1 (8473)(1986): 143.
- All that is required of us, in our "new sexual ethic," is that we have sex in a way that favours us more than it favours our diseases.
- Richard Summerbell, Body Politic, June 1983 (reported in Ann Silversides, AIDS activist: Michael Lynch and the Politics of Community (2003), p. 32).
- About 17% of adults 18-59 have had an STD and the lifetime infection rate is likely to be over 20% (Laumann, Michael, Gagnon, and Stuart, 1994).1 Moreover, with the advent of AIDS the medical problem of STDs has taken on increasing urgency (CDC, 2002; Div. of HIV/AIDS Prevention, 1995 and Yankauer, 1994). Deaths from AIDS rose at a rapid pace in the 1980s and early 1990s. By 1992 AIDS had become the number one cause of death among men 25-44. Then due to improvements in medical treatments, cases diagnosed as AIDS peaked in 1993 and deaths from AIDS in 1995. The death rate fell by more than two-thirds and has continued declining through 2002 (CDC, 1998; 2000; "AIDS Falls," NCHS, 2005; 1998; State and Local, 1998; State and Territorial Health Depts. et al, 2000; Surveillance Branch, 2001). Likewise, newly diagnosed HIV cases have also fallen (Espinoza et al, 2005). Most HIV infections have resulted from sexual behavior and heterosexual intercourse has become a major mode of transmission ("Heterosexuality," 1994; CDC, 1998; 2002; Espinoza et al., 2005).
- Tom W. Smith, “American Sexual Behavior: Trends, Socio-Demographic Differences, and Risk Behavior”, National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago GSS Topical Report No. 25 (Updated March, 2006), p.1
- ..."That disease he has does an awful job on you. Your lungs fill up."
"Well, he should have kept his penis out of other men's bottoms then," Janice says, lowering her voice though, so the nurses and orderlies in the hall don't hear.
- John Updike, "Rabbit at Rest" (1990)
- The Catholic bishops of South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland categorically regard the widespread and indiscriminate promotion of condoms as an immoral and misguided weapon in our bat-tle against HIV/AIDS for the following reasons. The use of condoms goes against human dignity. Con-doms change the beautiful act of love into a selfish search for pleasure-while rejecting responsibility. Condoms do not guarantee protection against HIV/AIDS. Condoms may even be one of the main rea-sons for the spread of HIV/AIDS.
- Family Values Versus Safe Sex, (2003 Vatican); as qtd. in Alsan, Marcella (April 2006). "The Church & AIDS in Africa: Condoms & the Culture of Life". ‘’Commonweal: A Review of Religion, Politics, and Culture’’. 133 (8). Archived from the original on 2006-08-21. Retrieved 2006-11-28.
- You want to know why I don't have AIDS, why I'm not HIV-positive like so many other people? I don't fuck around. It's as simple as that.
- Kurt Vonnegut, "Timequake" (1997) (p.43)
Alsan, Marcella, "The Church & AIDS in Africa: Condoms & the Culture of Life". Commonweal: A Review of Religion, Politics, and Culture. 133 (8), (April 2006). Archived from the original on 2006-08-21. Retrieved 2006-11-28.
- In the midst of the AIDS epidemic, which has already killed tens of millions and preys disproportionately on the poor, the condom acts as a contra mortem and its use is justified by the Catholic consistent ethic of life.
At least, this is the view of many Catholics at the front lines of the global HIV battle. Catholic organizations mercifully provide around 25 percent of the care AIDS victims receive worldwide. Many of the clergy and laity involved in treating people with AIDS, who otherwise fully ascribe to the church’s teachings on sexual ethics and the sanctity of marriage, nevertheless endorse the use of condoms. They argue that the preservation of human life is paramount. Fr. Valeriano Paitoni, working in São Paulo, Brazil, summarized this perspective: “AIDS is a world epidemic, a public-health problem that must be confronted with scientific advances and methods that have proven effective,” he says. “Rejecting condom use is to oppose the fight for life.”
- Bishop Kevin Dowling of South Africa has also been imploring the Vatican to view condom use as curtailing the transmission of death rather than precluding the transmission of life. In South Africa, 5.3 million people are infected with HIV and 25 percent of all pregnant women test positive for the virus. Dowling prays that the Holy Spirit will intervene to change minds in Rome. He believes Pope Benedict XVI’s view on the use of condoms would change, “if his visits to poor countries were done in such a way that he could sit in a shack and see a young mother dying of AIDS with her baby.” Not long ago, Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels stated on Dutch television that although sex with a person infected with HIV is to be avoided, “if it should take place, the person must use a condom in order not to disobey the commandment condemning murder, in addition to breaking the commandment which forbids adultery.” He added: “Protecting oneself against sickness or death is an act of prevention. Morally, it cannot be judged on the same level as when a condom is used to reduce the number of births.”
- Although it is true that condoms are not 100-percent effective in preventing HIV infection, they do reduce the risk of transmission significantly. Comparing condom use to a suicidal dare, as Cardinal Trujillo does, is scientifically inaccurate and socially irresponsible. A preponderance of medical research demonstrates that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV. For example, the European Study Group on Heterosexual Transmission of HIV followed 124 discordant couples (in which only one of the pair is infected with HIV) who consistently used condoms. Over a two-year period and roughly fifteen thousand sexual acts, none of the HIV-negative partners contracted the virus. Thai investigators examining the impact of condom use among the military reported that new infections dropped from 12.5 percent in 1993 to 6.7 percent in 1995. The number of new HIV infections in Thailand plummeted after the introduction of a “100-percent condom use” program. Uganda earned its reputation as a paragon of HIV prevention for its now-famous ABC program: Abstain, Be faithful, and Consistent, Correct use of Condoms. Following the implementation of ABC, HIV infection in Uganda decreased from between 15 and 20 percent of the population in the early 1990s to 5 percent in 2003. A comparative analysis of Ugandan population-based surveys in 1989 and 1995 concluded that delaying the age of first sexual encounters, decreasing the number of casual partners, and increasing condom use all contributed to Uganda’s success.
- Benedict XVI made his first comments as pope regarding condom use at a June 2005 papal audience. His listeners included bishops from South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, and Lesotho. After reviewing the importance of catechesis and recruiting African men to the priest-hood, the pope turned his attention to AIDS: “It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking, and a contraception mentality.” He emphasized that contraception leads to a “breakdown in sexual morality.” In the speech, the pope made a diagnosis: condoms increase sexual immorality, and sexual immorality increases the spread of AIDS. The logical treatment for sexual immorality is Christian marriage, fidelity, and chastity. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Vatican’s Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, had reached a similar conclusion in his Message for World AIDS Day (December 1, 2003): “We have to present this [lifestyles emphasizing marriage, fidelity, and chastity] as the main way for the effective prevention of infection and spread of HIV/AIDS, since the phenomenon of AIDS is a pathology of the spirit.”
- Fidelity in marriage and abstinence for everyone else would be the only indicated intervention if a “pathological spirit” were the only cause of AIDS. Unfortunately, many victims of HIV are blameless. Currently, 25 million HIV-infected individuals and 12 million AIDS orphans are living in sub-Saharan Africa. The communities hardest hit by AIDS are among the world’s most impoverished. Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the world’s lowest per capita annual income ($450 US), and where half of all individuals live in extreme poverty (earning less than a dollar a day), is ground zero of the epidemic. Over 70 percent of all infections, 80 percent of all AIDS-related deaths, and 90 percent of all AIDS-orphanings occur here. And with over six thousand new infections per day, the epidemic shows no signs of abating.
- Obviously, the poor are limited in their access to education and to health services. Ignorance kills. When accurate information is not available, myths multiply. Surveys from forty countries indicate that more than 50 percent of young people aged fifteen to twenty-four have serious misconceptions about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted. Research by the Nelson Mandela Foundation has shown that 35 percent of twelve- to fourteen-year-olds thought that sex with a virgin could cure AIDS, or were unsure whether or not that statement was true. In other impoverished nations, AIDS is thought to be spread by witchcraft, mosquito bites, or through polio vaccination.
- In Africa, the legacy of colonial racism, and especially of apartheid, still plays a role in determining one’s risk of contracting HIV. In South Africa, a migrant labor system separated husbands from wives and made normal family life impossible. That pattern continues in the mining industry today, where the conflation of harsh working conditions, separation from wife and family, and the invariable proximity of brothels facilitate the spread of HIV from sex worker to laborer, and thence to his wife and children.
- Acknowledging the role that poverty, racism, and gender inequality play in fueling the spread of AIDS in no way diminishes the need for personal responsibility and moral restraint. Indeed, even the correct and consistent use of condoms will require behavior change and individual accountability. But by narrowly diagnosing AIDS as a problem of morality and by discrediting a vital component of HIV prevention, the church is advancing a remedy that is woefully inadequate. In medicine, partial therapy is at best ineffective-and at worst lethal.