The British online journal Thinking Faith has published a provocative article by the Jesuit Michael Czerny defending the pope’s criticism of condom use in the fight against AIDS. Here are the key paragraphs:
On the second issue of a strategy for whole populations, there is widespread belief that condom-use programmes are effective in reducing HIV infection rates. However, this proves true only outside Africa and amongst identifiable sub-groups (e.g. prostitutes, gay men), not in a general population. There is no evidence that condoms as a public health strategy have reduced HIV levels at the level of the whole population. Indeed, greater availability and use of condoms is consistently associated with higher (not lower) HIV infection rates, perhaps because when one uses a risk reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) because people take greater chances than they would without the technology.
Therefore at the public level, an aggressive condoms policy ‘increases the problem’ as it deflects attention, credibility and resources from more effective strategies like abstinence and fidelity – or in secular language, the postponement of sexual debut and a reduction in the proportion of men and women reporting multiple sexual partners. Abstinence and fidelity win little public support in dominant Western discourse, but they are vindicated by solid scientific research and are increasingly included, even favoured, in national AIDS strategies in Africa.