Point/Counterpoint pt2

Erin Roof Columnist

Catholic Church hates condoms

About 25 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV/AIDS, according to www.avert.org. But if the Bush administration has its way, there are going to be a lot more.

In 2003, President Bush was praised worldwide for his $15 billion pledge to support the global fight against AIDS. This hefty sum could make a sizable dent in the price tag of AIDS prevention, but further examination shows it is just another example of the administration wasting funds. The initiative is so bogged down with religious ideology it is actually stalling progress in AIDS prevention.

Going with the administration’s current trend, the AIDS money is being divvied up among faith-based organizations to carry out the program across the world. I fully believe many of these groups have successful relief and charity programs, but religious ideology has no place in tackling the AIDS epidemic.

Abstinence and marital fidelity are the focus of the White House AIDS initiative, which downplays the role of condoms in reducing HIV/AIDS transmission. We cannot change entire cultures’ sexual traditions into ones befitting of the administration. Also, in many of the countries that get funding through the initiative, women have little or no control over whom they have sex with and how many partners they have. Simply telling them to stop having sex won’t work. But programs educating men on the benefits of wearing condoms does lead to lower HIV infection rates.

The problem is the Catholic Church hates condoms. The Vatican’s crusade against condoms caused an uproar when Catholic organizations instructed nations heavily hit by AIDS not to use the contraceptives, arguing they are ineffective. The church contends condoms have tiny holes through which HIV can pass, exposing users to risk. But the scientific community says condoms are impermeable to the virus. The condom scandal doesn’t seem to bother the Bush administration. Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Medical Mission Board were among the faith-based organizations that received tens of millions from the initiative.

It is obvious the White House is more concerned with public relations than prevention. This is why President Bush is financially starving the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, instead choosing to go it alone, once again.

If the president truly wanted to stop HIV/AIDS, he would work with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, which is active in 127 countries — instead of the 15 under the Bush plan (Haiti, Guyana, Vietnam and 12 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa). This will mean derogating power away from faith-based organizations and implementing policy based on science rather than religion.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS supports several approaches that make the Bush administration nervous, which is why it is recoiling from promises of strong support. The group practices safer sex education for sex workers, needle exchanges for intravenous drug users, distribution of generic AIDS medication and condom promotion. These programs are essential to eradicating the disease and should be practiced by the Bush initiative, too.

There has to be a separation of church and state in this global struggle. Faith-based organizations should not use the fight against HIV/AIDS as a platform to push religious ideology when people’s lives are at stake.

Erin Roof is a junior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].