Condoms and morality

In my previous post about HIV/AIDS prevention public service announcements, I noted that they are “as direct as they can be in a culture that still shows very little kissing in its movies and television programs.”

But India is not alone in letting “morality” issues affect its fight against HIV/AIDS. Just last year, Texas voted to adopt health textbooks that focus on abstinence and barely mention the role condoms can play in preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

The Texas Board of Education even considered one textbook that asserts that “respecting yourself and getting enough rest are two steps to preventing sexually transmitted diseases,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. As the second-largest buyer of textbooks, decisions made by the Texas Board have tremendous influence across the country.

While abstinence appears to be a good idea to conservative Americans, the reality is far from what they envision. An eight-year study released earlier this year by researchers from several universities, including Columbia, found that people who pledge to protect their virginity until marriage are almost as likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as kids who make no such pledge.

Anand Grover discusses condoms and morality
click image for video interview

“The sad story is that kids who are trying to preserve their technical virginity are, in some cases, engaging in much riskier behavior,” such as oral and anal sex, said Peter S. Bearman, a professor at Columbia’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, and the lead author of the study told the Washington Post. “From a public health point of view, an abstinence movement that encourages no vaginal sex may inadvertently encourage other forms of alternative sex that are at higher risk of STDs.”

President George W. Bush pledged $15 billion over five years for AIDS treatment and prevention in countries where the disease is running rampant. But one of the conditions of the legislation requires that one-third of the prevention funding go to abstinence-only programs.

Government-funded domestic HIV prevention programs that encourage people to use condoms are required to point out condom-failure rates despite scientific studies that show that condoms are 90 percent effective for preventing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea.

American television commercials bombard viewers with images of women with ample bosoms and long legs to sell everything from beer to cars. But the mere mention of the role condoms can play in protecting against sexually transmitted diseases is considered by many people (including President Bush) to be a moral lapse.

Understandably, the far more traditional Indian culture is now struggling to adapt to the need to openly discuss sex education with its youth. In this video clip, Anand Grover, an attorney and project director for the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit in Mumbai, India, talks about this hurdle.

The Collective’s attorneys represent indigent people in court to help win them access to medicines or to protect their jobs against discrimination. The Collective is also trying to influence Indian legislation to make access to health services a government obligation.

One Response to “Condoms and morality”

  1. Abstinence advocate says:

    Its unfortunate that you have such a bleak view of abstinence as a means of preventing HIV, and other forms of diseases resulting from sex. One thing that you cannot argue with is it’s the best way to be safe from these sexual diseases.

    You mention that kids pledging abstinence are almost as likely to contract STDs as kids who don’t. So what your saying is, that little bit of difference isn’t enough to move towards changing the views of kids towards not having sex at all until they get older? The fact that it may save just 1 person more than it would with a condom-driven agenda is insignificant? Forget the fact that the study(s) that your using probably doesn’t take into account a lot of other factors that go along with promoting abstinence, such as, parental influence, social influence, etc. Its hard to determine how those studies where conducted without seeing the reports themselves. For all we know the subjects tested may have already been sexually active.

    Another thing you mention is kids who try to practice abstinence tend to engage in riskier behavior such as oral and anal sex. Perhaps this is because abstinence isn’t being taught correctly? Maybe instead of saying “vaginal sex” is risky because you can get HIV or an STD, the message should be that any form of sex, vaginal, oral, or anal, leads to a higher risk of HIV or STDs, maybe that trend will be lessen. The education needs to be complete, not partial. So to say that abstinence pushes kids towards riskier behavior is subjective to say the least.

    You also mention that there are people that view introducing condoms as a way of preventing STDs is a moral lapse. I don’t know about it being morally wrong, but I do know that it isn’t the best way to prevent HIV and STDs. Look at the 2 scenerios, and think about which one a teenager is going to choose: 1. You tell the teenager “The best way to prevent sexual diseases is to not have sex.” 2. You tell the teenager “If your going to have sex, use a condom. A condom will reduce the risk of sexual diseases by 90%”. Which scenerio is a teenager, who is in a car making out with his/her lover, going to go with? The percentage is going to be really high that he/she will choose #2. Compound that with the available condoms in school, and he/she will most likely engage in sex. Lets say that he/she has sex and there is no disease as a result. That teenager is going to start thinking that as long as he/she is using a condom there is no risk. This leads to frequent sex, and the risk become even higher for that teenager. Its like playing russian roulette. The bottom line, presenting condoms as a means of preventing sexual diseases tend to increase the sexual activities in teenagers, which in turn increases the risk of transmitted diseases.

    Take a look at society in the early 20’s. Look at our progressive growth of diseases and its spread across this nation, let alone, this world. Look at how sex is viewed in the past versus today. There isn’t any hinderance. People today view sex as something that can be practiced at any time without consequence, only because we as a society is telling people that its ok, do as you like. Movies, TV, schools, are telling us that we can have sex and its ok. There is an increase in showing the need for sex, but there is a decrease in showing the consequences, the results, of having sex outside of its intended purpose. If you are someone that fails to see this, then you are someone that is not helping society, but adding to its degradation.

    I’ll end this with a personal testimony on the results of abstinence. I’ve been practicing abstinence and do not regret at all my decision of waiting. Am I in denial about my natural urges? No. I’m fully aware of them, and there may be jokes as to how I handle that, but one thing is for certain, I am thankful to my parents, and to those that pushed me to stay abstinent, because I have avoided a life of misery that could have been a result of one moment of passion. Say what you want about abstinence, but one thing you cannot change, or debate, is its history of positive effectiveness.