March 28, 2009

Harvard researchers agree with Pope Benedict on condoms in Africa

Well, I know, this is a minefield, but shouldn’t blogging be, in itself, a continuous challenge to prevailing views of what is worth debating and how (with what purposes and inclinations) it should be debated, of what is arguable and what is not, and so on? So, here we go and let’s strike a blow for a man who dared to say that “the scourge [of AIDS] cannot be resolved by distributing condoms,” and that by doing so we “risk worsening the problem.” Which provoked a most predictable and well-rehearsed chorus of boos from left-wing politicians, mainstream media and activist groups. By the way, perhaps Frank Pastore is right when he writes, in a must-read post at, that “activists can’t help throwing condoms, either at those who oppose their policy, or at populations dying of AIDS in Africa and around the world.”

But, after all, how could it be a surprise? Who knew that … Harvard agrees with the pope? Activists certainly didn’t, neither did Pastore, as he himself acknowledges, nor did I: Condoms don’t lower the HIV-infection rate, they spread AIDS, instead! Have you ever heard this before? And it’s also hard to believe, as Pastore fairly points out, that there’s a classroom or newsroom in America—and elsewhere, in the Western world, I would dare to add—where this has ever been discussed or broadcast. So, please, don’t waste your time, stop being so damn argumentative, just read what Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, had to say in an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online:

We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.
The pope is correct, or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments. He stresses that condoms have been proven to not be effective at the level of population. There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the US-funded Demographic Health Surveys, between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction technology such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by compensating or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.

I also noticed that the pope said monogamy was the best single answer to African AIDS, rather than abstinence. The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates (the other major factor is male circumcision).


  1. Excellent post, Rob. It should have been obvious all along that stressing condom use to fight AIDS without at least equal emphasis on behavior modification wasn't going to be of much help. However, the issues associated with HIV/AIDS became so political and self-serving from the beginning that this kind of problem was inevitable.

    I don't think many people are aware of the Harvard support for the Pope's statements. I'm going to link to this post from Opinion Forum.

  2. the left are blind to their own racism in not believing cultures outside of the west could ever understan or practise moderation or abstenance.

  3. False priority to superficiality was given, instead of morality and common sense. It was blown up, so to speak, by our careless, lusty, lefty, liberal governments and thus the media, out of all proportion. An invitation to the 'joys' of permissiveness, as long as one has the rubber insurance coverage. Naturally the first priority should have been the timeless moral aspect. The results speak for themselves. And perhaps the saddest victim of all, due to this 'free for all, balloon party irresponsibility', has been love itself.

  4. On this, and every issue the Left addresses, it's intention, not results that count. They only want to hear science that supports their political view. In Cameroon, between 1992 and 2001 condom sales there increased from 6 million to 15 million - while HIV infection tripled, from 3 percent to 9 per cent. Yet in Uganda and Kenya HIV is dropping or at least under control because the focus is on monogamy. Stay with one partner, and don't go sexual grazing. Doggone it, those Judeo-Christian values just might be right again!!

  5. Hi there, although I usually don't respond to comments left here (unless they ask me a question directly), this time I’ll make an exception, and this just to say a big thank you to you all for your comments, since they add something very valuable to the discussion. I very much appreciate them. Just wanted you to know this ... ;-)