When the pope visited Africa back in mid-March, a firestorm erupted when the media reported he had said “condoms spread AIDS.” Although the pope didn’t use those exact words, it was an accurate summary. Here’s what the pope did say:
I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness—even through personal sacrifice—to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.
According to the pope, “the scourge [of AIDS] cannot be resolved by distributing condoms”—in fact, doing so “risk[s] worsening the problem.” Predictably, there was a cacophony of condemnation directed at the pope. And to give just one example, ACT UP, the gay activist group, labeled him “assassin,” and threw condemns at worshippers leaving service at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
I guess activists can’t help throwing condoms—either at those who oppose their policy, or at populations dying of AIDS in Africa and around the world.
Soon after the story broke, Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, released an interview with Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Here’s what Green had to say:
We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.
The pope is correct, or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments. He stresses that condoms have been proven to not be effective at the level of population. There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the US-funded Demographic Health Surveys, between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction technology such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by compensating or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.
I also noticed that the pope said monogamy was the best single answer to African AIDS, rather than abstinence. The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates (the other major factor is male circumcision).
Have you ever heard this before?—anywhere?
It’s hard to believe that there’s a classroom or newsroom in America where this has ever been discussed or broadcast.
Who knew that distributing condoms doesn’t lower the HIV-infection rate, it raises it?
We were talking about this on my radio show the day the story broke, when I went to the next caller, “Rick in Santa Margarita”—who ended up being pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback, listening in on his way to a hospital visitation.
Rick shared that he’s friends with Ed Green, familiar with his research, and stays up to speed on the whole AIDS pandemic in Africa. No pastor in America has done more to fight AIDS in Africa than Rick Warren—and he went on to affirm everything Ed Green and the Pope said about condoms: passing out condoms promotes promiscuity, promiscuity increases risky behavior (i.e., “non-safe sex”), and non-safe sex spreads AIDS. Thus, “condoms spread AIDS.”
If they want to stop AIDS, then they’ll have to stop encouraging promiscuity and adultery and teach abstinence and monogamy.
This is why in Africa, where AIDS has already killed tens of millions, more and more countries are abandoning our Western strategy of condom distribution and replacing it with the strategy that actually does save lives.
Since it began teaching abstinence, Uganda has dropped its HIV infection rate from 30 percent down to 6 percent. Other countries have gotten the message.
The bottom line? God was right—again.
When He gave us the Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” it wasn’t for His benefit, but ours.
If the world won’t hear His message, maybe they’ll hear the message coming out of Africa.