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24.03.2009 Feature Article

Excuse me Your Holiness! To Condom or Not to Condom? That is the Question.

“Condoms Promote Sexual Promiscuity”: The Pope Stirred Up Controversy in Africa.

WE HAVE GOT TO GIVE IT up to Pope Benedict XVI Indeed, it's good to be a Pope .In the midst of world economic tsunami who else can tell Africans on their on soil to stop using condoms in this day and age--- when HIV is killing people every day? Way to go, your Holiness!

It's has been a busy week for the Pope in Yaoundé, Cameroon. On his recent first trip to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI told Africans to stop using condoms because they “promote sexual promiscuity”. Excuse me, your Holiness!

For decades, the world Health organization and other health experts around the world have promoted the use of latex condoms as means to control the spread of HIV or AIDS and any other sexual transmitted diseases (STD).His opposition to the use of condoms stems from the moral point of view in conjunction with the Roman Catholic Church's teachings. In essence, he is operating on the premise of total “sexual Abstinence –not condoms—as the best way to prevent the spread of H.I.V, the virus that causes AIDS. In fact, that's very ideal, but is it practicable in the real world we live in today?

Yeah, I know what you are thinking ,but please swallow your pride and hold on to your thought for the sake this piece and the respect for your ' Holiness'(the Pope) This is not the time to bad- mouth the Pope. Please don't go there, unless you don't want to go to heaven. Because you never know, perhaps some angels are monitoring the internet 24/7.And ,I surely don't want to go to Hell for messing with the your Holiness.

Any way, where were we?
I'm going to be as gentle as possible and Christian –like as possible here, so folks bear with me. First of all it's true that condoms alone are not one- hundred percent proof to prevent STD and HIV .Because condoms sometimes burst, slip or are put on incorrectly. So that leaves abstinence from sexual intercourse or having trusted monogamous relationship the best way out to control the spread of HIV and STD. This is true in the perfect world when all things are being equal and everybody exercises self control ,always.

Ok, tell that to a teenager with high –octane hormone, which goes 300 miles per hour, and ready to explode ---with the appetite to immediately satisfy his or her impulses by any means necessary.

Now let's go into the real world, where most of us live ---including some of the Catholic Church priests, who also try on occasions to satisfy their sexual impulses by doing hanky-panky things with young boys in their parishes. Oops! (I warned you that I was going to be nice and Christian –like.)

In the real world human kind has needs--- including emotional ,physical and sexual needs .It's also believed that people have the tendency to go astray sometimes(just like the priests and religious ministers do time to time ) ,so one can not be one-hundred percent sure where his or her partner plays. You can't put your life in the hands of other people. It has also been proved beyond any scientific doubt that condoms when use properly can prevent the spread of any STD and HIV by eighty- percent.

For some reasons Africans tend to get the short –end of the stick all the time. Don't ask me why the Pope won't say that in U.S. ----where school children as young as 12 years are taught how to use condoms. Can you imagine the uproar it would cause in the other part of the world when the same statement is made?

Whether the Pope is being insensitive to our plights or just carrying out his papal duties is hardly relevant to what is in the interest of Africans, who are dispro-portionally the victims of the deadly disease. Of course, the relevant question here is: His statement and adamant stand against the use of condom, isn't that detrimental to our course and aspirations?

Regrettably, the Pope failed to realize the complexity of our culture and belief system that also play a role in our decision- making process. Now some may consider the use of condom as a sin which will prevent them from going to heaven. That decision alone can easily sentence an entire village to death, not by war, but a preventable disease in the 21st century. God have mercy on Africa!

Words can be very dangerous, indeed. Now, he got people very confused as to what to do. And, people who are reluctant to use condom are going to have reasons to stay way from it permanently .And, you know the consequence, don't you? Thanks to the Pope, his statement is going to take us back another decade to find our bearings in the fight against this deadly disease.

Personally, I think churches' doctrines should be flexible enough and more humane to accommodate the needs of the people especially when life is at stake. Attacking the use of condom---which is the major arsenal in the fight against HIV ---is dangerous and inhumane.

Condom may not be the best defense against HIV, but it's the only reliable lifeline we have at this moment for holding on to our lives. Putting ideology and church's doctrine ahead of the needs of millions of people is not right.

I wonder whether the crowd of people who lined up in the streets of Yaoundé to greet and take pictures of him understand the implications of his statement and his stand on the only reliable and practicable means of preventing the disease--- which is claiming their brothers and sisters at alarming rate.

Unfortunately, most of the people who will buy into the Pope's anti-condom rhetoric are driven by “faith”. But, faith alone is not enough. Let us be rational and reason together according to the standards of the bible or any faith book. In biblical principles, is the use of condom itself a sin? The answer is emphatic 'no'! No, by reason of any common sense position.

The fight against HIV/AIDS is simply A, B and C .A- abstinence, B-Be faithful and C- condoms .In my opinion, the Chileans' HIV campaign got it right. It says: “I take care of my life; condoms always!” Please don't leave home without it. And, do take care of your life.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi, © 2009

This author has authored 198 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwakuAduGyamfi

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