CULTURE & COSMOS
January 13, 2004 Volume 1, Number 23
New Research Shows Dangers of Condoms in HIV Prevention
Availability of condoms statistically increase promiscuity and
risk of contracting HIV according to medical experts who presented
their findings on the "ABC" approach to the HIV/Pandemic
in Washington, DC last week. The presentations,
hosted by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health,
were critical of the insistence by some NGO's and policy makers
that the "C" (condom) approach will stem the tide of the pandemic.
"20 years into the pandemic there is no evidence that more condoms
leads to less AIDS," stated Dr. Edward C. Green of Harvard's'
Center for Population and Development Studies.
Citing data on condom availability in many African
counties, Green went on to say that "we are not seeing what
we expected: that higher levels of condom availability result in
lower HIV prevalence." Dr. Norman Hearst of the
University of California --- San Francisco
supported this analysis with statistics on Kenya, Botswana, and
other countries, which show an increasingly alarming pattern of
increased condom sale correlation with rising HIV
prevalence by year.
Promotion of the "safe-sex" message has reportedly increased
numbers of sexual partners. The spread of HIV is a behavioral
problem, according to Green, who said that "having
multiple sexual partners drives AIDS epidemics. If
people did not have multiple sex partners, epidemics
would not develop or, once developed, be sustained." He continued,
"over a lifetime, it is the number of sexual
partners [that matter]...condom levels are found to
be non-determining of HIV infection levels."
Unfortunately, Hearst stated, we are "raising a generation of
young people in Africa that believe that condoms will prevent HIV."
This is concerning because condoms are not 100%
effective, even when used properly. According to
Hearst, "the most recent Met-analysis came up with
80%...but even if it is 90%, over time it's the question of when, not
if...you don't want to give people a false
sense of security and A and B are better in the
In other cases, often reported by proponents of the safe-sex
message, countries such as Thailand saw incidence rates for HIV
decrease after the government mandated 100% condom
use in brothels. Unfortunately, according to Hearst
and Stoneburner, proponents rarely look closer at the
data, and in such instances behavior change had much more to do
with the decreased rates of transmission. "This is
usually attributed to 100% condom use, but visits
to sex workers declined by 60%...they did so out of
fear and risk avoidance."
It is the behavior change advocated by the "A" and "B" approach
that is additionally supported by data, such as in the famed Uganda
case. According to Dr. Rand Stoneburner (formerly
of the WHO and an independent advisor to USAID),
"declines of HIV in Uganda are linked to behavior
change...[and] include primary risk avoidance with a 65% decline in causal
sex." The Ugandan government, which promoted abstinence and
faithfulness, helped bring about a 75% decline in
HIV prevalence among 15-19 age group, 60% in the
20-24, and a 54% decline overall by 1998.
Stoneburner and others believe the change was due to different
language used. In Uganda, President Museveni reportedly repeated to
Ugandans "you are going to die if you don't stop this!" whereas in
other countries, there is little talk of death.
Stoneburner pointed out "25% of South Africans
don't believe HIV causes AIDS" and in many countries "they
do not talk about death links to AIDS." This information proves the
unfortunate effectiveness of the "safe sex" message that
increasingly places individuals at risk for HIV
transmission and STDS worldwide.