Thursday, July 5, 2012


"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem."
--Pope Benedict XVI on condom use as a means of mitigating the spread of HIV in Africa (2009)

In the 80s, HIV and AIDS scared the piss out of everyone. No one knew what it was, how it worked, how it spread, or how to save yourself from it. Public restrooms were viewed as death traps. It was even potentially unsafe to kiss your lover. Now things have mellowed a bit, as we have a good understanding of HIV and AIDS. We know how it spreads, which allows us to take measures to prevent exposure. We even know of many treatments which can prolong life; although, we don't have a cure, yet. Most of the world is still developing and has limited access to proper education. But the most effective methods of preventing the spread of this disease are easy to teach and easy to understand. So why are 1 in 5 people in southern Africa infected with HIV?

Religiously, Africa is split into two factions: Muslims and Catholics. The northern region, being Muslim, has strict penalties for adultery and premarital sex; namely, death. This is quite an effective deterrent. As a result, the entire population is forced into abstinence before marriage and fidelity during marriage (at least, for women). The southern region is mostly Catholic, and, although, they do not employ capital punishment for sexual promiscuity, they do also advocate abstinence and fidelity. Yet, the south is plagued with HIV, while the north is not.

In the fight against HIV/AIDS, there is a motto among doctors and nurses, known as the ABC's: Abstinence from sex, Be faithful to your partner, and Condom use. These three things are universally accepted by health-care professionals as the most effective methods against the spread of HIV. Abstinence and Being faithful are pretty straight forward, and both Muslims to the north and Catholics to the south agree on these two methods. But condom use has been condemned by the Catholic Church for as long as there have been condoms.

Catholic opposition towards contraception stems from the same line of reasoning they use against abortion and masturbation. They hold that all life is precious, and that semen is, in a sense, the beginning of life. I apologize for the crude way I put this, but according to Catholics the only appropriate place for a man to ejaculate is inside his wife's vagina. Anything short of this is a sin. Furthermore, some have said that AIDS is god's punishment for transgressors, as if the threat of Hell wasn't despicable enough. They also say that children born with this disease carry upon their heads the sins of their fathers. Now, there's a just god.

As I quoted at the top, the current Pope is against condom use; since most people in southern Africa are Catholic, they adhere to his advice. The Pope has even said that condoms make matters worse, and people have taken this to mean that condoms will actually increase your chance of contracting HIV. Africa is one of the most poorly educated areas in the world, making people there susceptible to lies and superstition. Nothing could do more harm than telling an ignorant, superstitious group of people that if they use a condom they will die. But this is the message of the Catholic Church. As a result of this utmost evil preachment, HIV is rising. In some areas, like South Africa, HIV rates are as high as 36%. That's as high as the Black Plague!

Tell me, Pope Benedick, how is the prevention of "spilling semen" more ethical than doing everything you can to save the lives of millions of people?

Teaching Abstinence and Being faithful as the only methods of preventing the spread of HIV has failed; this technique seems to only work, perhaps ironically, upon threat of death. The only thing left to try is proper use of condoms. Until the Catholic Church stops spreading lies and changes their stance on condom use, HIV will continue to kill millions of people every year in Africa. As Christopher Hitchens said, during a debate with an African Catholic Cardinal: "...I think it will one day be admitted with shame that it might have been in error to say that AIDS is bad as a disease--very bad--but not quite as bad as condoms are bad. Or not as immoral in the same way."

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