Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Condoms, Pregnancy, and STD's

“Annie’s Mailbox” (Pacific Daily News, March 20, 2009) posted a letter from a 22 year old single woman who had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. The woman asked “Annie” to explain how she could have gotten the disease since her boyfriend “always used protection”. The woman signed the letter “Devastated in New York” because not only did her partner leave her with an STD, he left her altogether: “he suddenly stopped seeing me and wouldn’t return my calls”. “Annie” replied: “While condoms are very effective, they are not foolproof and on rare occasion have been known to break and leak.”

Last week (March 17), Pope Benedict, on a trip to Africa, gave similar advice while responding to a reporter’s challenge as to the Catholic Church's position on the way to fight against AIDS (abstinence and fidelity) as “unrealistic and ineffective."

The Pope’s response was approximately 264 words long and was framed within the larger context of the church's service to those with AIDS and its efforts to promote what he called a "humanization of sexuality" that includes the elements of fidelity and self-sacrifice. The sound byte seized on by the media was only 17 of those 264 words and is as follows: “One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.”

Ignoring the fact that the media isolated only this one phrase and ignored the larger context – a not uncommon practice – the question still is: Does in fact the promotion of condom use increase the spread of AIDS?

“Google” the question and you’ll come up with a myriad of reports and studies that come down on both sides of the answer. But one thing that ALL the studies have in common is that while condoms MAY reduce the risk of an STD infection; they DO NOT eliminate the risk. The question then becomes” What is the risk?”

The Guttmacher Institute is the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, and obviously no friend of the Pope’s. In a 1999 report, Guttmacher stated: “Generally, the condom's effectiveness at preventing HIV transmission is estimated to be 87%, but it may be as low as 60% or as high as 96%.”The study presupposes consistent and correct use and proper storage of a condom.

According to Planned Parenthood, here are just some of the factors to take into consideration when using a condom if one is concerned with maximum protection:

  • The type of material a condom is made of (some work better than others)
  • The expiration date
  • It should be stored in a cool dry place- it should not be stored in pocket, wallet, or glove compartment
  • Care should be taken when opening the protective pouch so as not to damage the condom
  • Use only water based lubricants
  • The condom must be put on according to the instructions, etc.

(The instructions are almost comical given that anyone who has ever used a condom has probably paid little attention to any of the above. Then throw in the economic and climate conditions of Africa and the fact that perhaps many people are not literate and unable to read the instructions.)

However, given the Guttmacher study, even if all the instructions are followed, you have at best a 1 in 25 chance of contracting an STD if engaging in sex with an infected person, and at worst, a 1 in 4 chance. Interestingly, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reported that in 2007, 1 out of every 4 teenage girls was infected with an STD, and that number does not include cases of AIDS.

Another facet of the problem to be considered is that the promotion of condom use is inherently a promotion of sex without consequences. But there are always consequences. Sooner or later, even the most ardent condom users will find themselves in an “indiscriminate” moment without a condom. It’s just the law of averages.

The other issue is that condom usage assumes that the man is in charge. Excepting a few cases, it is the man who will purchase the “right” type of condom, make sure it is stored correctly, opened correctly, donned correctly, and then judge during intercourse whether or not the condom is performing correctly. Ahem. Ladies, do you really trust a man to do all that?

The woman in the “Dear Annie” letter is far from alone. Regardless of the human wreckage left by STD’s, there is the untold human wreckage of broken hearts and broken souls as we saw in this sad letter. And there’s also this:

So far we have only looked at the facts regarding condoms and protection from STD’s. The same Guttmacher study reports that the incidence of breakage for condoms is as high as 6.7% and as high as 16.6% for slippage, leading to as many as 15 out of 100 women becoming pregnant.

Since not wanting to have a child is the usual reason for using a condom in the first place, that reason will probably still exist after pregnancy is discovered, and the next step is an abortion.

On Guam (Abortion Report for 2007 – Guam Medical Records) 18% of all reported abortions were on women whose partner was using a condom, and 59% of all reported abortions were on women who were using some form of artificial birth control.

Of course these numbers are only based on the abortion reports. It is assumed that many more pregnancies were carried to term, so the incidence of condom failure is probably much higher.
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