Last week, while traveling in Africa, Pope Benedict came under withering criticism when he suggested that condoms were not the answer to the AIDS crisis. “You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms; on the contrary, it increases the problem.” But as Dr. Edward Green, Director of of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard School of Public Health noted in an interview yesterday, from an empirical perspective the Pope was absolutely right:
I am a liberal on social issues and it’s difficult to admit, but the Pope is indeed right. The best evidence we have shows that condoms do not work as an intervention intended to reduce HIV infection rates, in Africa. (They have worked in e.g. Thailand and Cambodia, which have very different epidemics) . . . What we see in fact is an association between greater condom use and higher infection rates. We don’t know all the reasons for this but part of it is due to what we call risk compensation. This means that a man using condoms believes that they are more effective than they really are, and so he ends up taking greater sexual risks. Another fact which is widely overlooked is that condoms are used when people are engaging in casual or commercial sex. People don’t use condoms with spouses or regular partners. So if condom rates go up, it may be that we are seeing an increase of casual sex.
(HT: Mirror of Justice)