Utah Valley Global Health Group

A blog about global health for those living in Utah Valley and their friends.

Birth Control and AIDS/HIV by Kerry Mears

Posted by benjamincrookston on August 11, 2008

Due to the moral and many times religious beliefs of people and countries, teaching condom use as part of a prevention program has become less emphasized.  A typical prevention motto is ABC- which stands for Abstaining from sex until you are older, Being faithful to your companion (and not having sex with many people), and Condom use.  Many people focus on the A and B part, but are leaving out the C part.  Sometimes due to religious and moral reasons, the condoms part of HIV prevention is left out, therefore affecting the people who probably most need them.  PBS did a wonderful series on HIV/AIDS, called the “Age of Aids”.  It can be located at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/aids/view/.  In the story we learn about a wonderful passionate woman named Noerine Kaleeba, a founder of Africa’s first AIDS support organization.  Her husband received a blood transfusion in 1983 with HIV infected blood.  By January of 1986, he passed away.  She gets frustrated when countries and policies leave out the C part, because she knows that condoms are what saved her life, not anything else.  Unfortunately the spread of HIV/AIDS has become so big, we cannot forget the large amount of people who already have it.  At the beginning of the HIV epidemic, leaving out condoms might have been a more viable option,  but now it’s one of the most important preventions to stress.  Many people argue that encouraging condom use encourages people to have sex as youth, or with sex workers, yet there are no specific studies that prove that.  Plus, I believe another large moral issue that is being faced is the ability to choose.  Of course programs should do all that they can to encourage and support the A and B part.  We know that strengthened family ties, and stronger communities come from this, and strong HIV prevention.  Yet, our programs don’t have the right to deny people the ability to choose.  That would be dictatorship.  People who already have HIV are already choosing to have unprotected sex.  There is no way to force people to stop having sex outside of a monogamous lifelong relationship.   We should encourage and teach people as much as we can,  but they still have choice.  And while they are still choosing to have sex outside of that relationship, they need to learn about protection.  To me it is a similar principle as self-defense.  If you take a group of women and teach them self-defense in case of an emergency, than some of those women will only use the skill when they absolutely need it, and some might choose to use it when they shouldn’t or don’t need to.  Yet, I think that most of us would agree it would be important to teach the class anyways.  HIV is a disease that is hitting husbands and wives, parents, and now children.  We need to teach everyone about “self-defense” through ABC -especially with condoms.  As Noerine said “…this debate of condom or no condom really makes me angry, because I know for a fact my husband had HIV; I don’t have HIV.  If you ask me to put it on record what actually protected me from his infection, it was a condom.”   Just because we have certain religious or moral beliefs about sexual relations outside of marriage or a monogamous partner, does not mean that we can deny possible health benefits (through the leaving out of teaching of condoms as a prevention) to those who are suffering with, possibly spreading, and at risk for HIV.  After all, isn’t health a human right for all?

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4 Responses to “Birth Control and AIDS/HIV by Kerry Mears”

  1. Rachel Milar said

    I had a discussion with a friend the other day about moral beliefs and how they play into global health issues, specifically about handing out condoms and doing needle exchanges to prevent the spread of AIDS. As we spoke I grew more and more frustrated at her lack of compliance with the issue; because she is morally against premarital sex, sex with more than one partner, and drug use, she is against any sort of program that supports them. We argued for some time about the consequences of ignoring a wrong behavior simply because it is wrong–in the end, she still refused to condone any sort of program that “helped” people engage in any sort of objectional behavior. Our discussion forced me to think through my own beliefs, which I find are very similar to Kerry’s: regardless of my own moral beliefs and practices, there are people that are victims of AIDS and other diseases, perhaps through their own personal actions, that need medical help. No matter the cause, I think that as people are suffering we need to look into the issue and how to help them, regardless of our own beliefs on the issue.

  2. chads said

    Controversial discussion. Here are a few quick thoughts that might be helpful from an LDS perspective:

    -What is your stance on drinking coffee or alcohol from a public health perspective?

    -Are condoms effective?

    -Does the use of condoms increase the user’s sexual activity?

  3. Nathan Barusch said

    I too am frustrated by the argument that programs like condom use, sex education, and needle exchanges encourage risky behavior. It is hard for me to imagine a very effective study that could be constructed to prove that these programs do not encourage risky behavior-besides showing that incidence does not increase following program implementation. However, the notion that a teen’s lack of education is not the only thing stopping them from engaging in sex or that an addict would be so concerned about his health as to refuse to use drugs if a clean needle were not available is ridiculous! The fact is these programs save lives. I hope that someday we are able to persuade more people that the moral thing to do is protect those whose lifestyle we may or may not condone rather than shunning them completely.

  4. chads said

    Interesting perspective, Nathan. It seems that you feel very strongly about the subject, as do others with other opinions. While I agree that it might be “hard to imagine a very effective study” (and my knowledge of the specifics of this data), I certainly hope that policy makers and public health planners are basing their decisions on the best data possible, while considering the background and culture of those they serve, as opposed to uninformed passionate biases. (Though I’m certainly not accusing you of being uninformed).

    “frustrated by the argument that programs like condom use, sex education, and needle exchanges encourage risky behavior” Maybe a literature review would be helpful. Might even be publishable??

    “The fact is these programs save lives.” Would you be willing to post a literature review sometime outlining the ways these programs save lives, along with their limitations and biases?

    “the notion that a teen’s lack of education is not the only thing stopping them from engaging in sex or that an addict would be so concerned about his health as to refuse to use drugs if a clean needle were not available is ridiculous!” Has anyone argued that those factors are the only thing stopping them? Are you aware of studies that look at other factors? Maybe you could post about that.

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