Religious Controversies

March 30th, 2009

Here are two interesting posts touching on religious controversies:

At Preemptive Karma, The Catholic War Against Children looks at the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion and its reaction to abuse scandals.

At Wind Rose Hotel, Harvard researchers agree with Pope Benedict on condoms in Africa discusses Harvard University research support for the Pope’s comments.

In The Pope May Be Right in The Washington Post, Edward C. Green reviews other research that supports the Pope’s comments about condom use.  He also highlights some of the political issues that complicate the discussion:

When Pope Benedict XVI commented this month that condom distribution isn’t helping, and may be worsening, the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, he set off a firestorm of protest. …

Yet, in truth, current empirical evidence supports him.

We liberals who work in the fields of global HIV/AIDS and family planning take terrible professional risks if we side with the pope on a divisive topic such as this. The condom has become a symbol of freedom and—along with contraception—female emancipation, so those who question condom orthodoxy are accused of being against these causes. My comments are only about the question of condoms working to stem the spread of AIDS in Africa’s generalized epidemics—nowhere else.

The rules of political correctness may prevent him from saying it, but as you read his article it’s obvious that the discussion has wider application.  Washington, D.C. is a perfect example, given the “generalized and severe” HIV/AIDS epidemic in the city.  See HIV/AIDS Rate in D.C. Hits 3% for a discussion of the epidemic.

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5 Responses to “Religious Controversies”

  1. Brian |

    While everybody is all adither over HIV/AIDS in Africa, the real killer that we could actually do something about kills nearly a million Africans a year (a large percentage of whom are children): malaria. Worldwide, HIV/AIDS deaths are estimated at 2 million annually. The last time I found any statistics on Africa, there were under 100K AIDS-related deaths annually, this from the World Health Organization.

    As far as I know, the only place on earth where DDT is still legal is South Africa. Amazingly enough, South Africa is the only sub-Saharan African nation that does not have a malaria problem. I haven’t found any studies on it (malaria is not a very sexy disease), but I’d guess that a significant portion of South Africa’s malaria problem is related to migrant workers from neighboring countries.

    I’ve read a great many of the studies, and I find no conclusive evidence that DDT is carcinogenic. It can certainly be a problem, if used incorrectly, for certain avian species, causing thinning of egg shells resulting in low hatch rates.

    DDT is cheaper and easier than mefloquine and malarone (anti-malarial drugs). I’ve taken mefloquine (business trips to South America), and it gave me nightmares. Other than that, it wasn’t a big deal. But, it has to be taken on a regular schedule, and if doses are missed or are late, then efficacy suffers. Unfortunately, the efficacy rate of these two anti-malarials is somewhere around 70%. That means that if 10 malaria-carrying mosquitoes bite you, then 3 of them will probably transmit it to you.

    DDT need only be sprayed twice a year, with a light dusting of the interior walls of a house a sufficient barrier to malaria-carrying mosquitoes. That seems a great deal easier than anti-malarial drugs (and considerably cheaper), or distributing condoms to try to prevent HIV/AIDS.

    The greatest problem in trying to control HIV/AIDS in Africa has to do with education and expectations. HIV/AIDS might kill you in 5 or 10 years or longer. I’d bet that most Africans are more afraid of dying by the genocidal madness that sweeps through with frightening regularity, and they are certainly more afraid of malaria – they probably all know people that have died from it. And it isn’t a slow death like AIDS. Death can occur within hours of becoming symptomatic.

    So, while there is much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over HIV/AIDS, know that there are worse problems that would be easier and cheaper to solve. I wish that the professional prevaricators (most people call them actors) would glom onto malaria.

  2. Kevin |

    Brian makes an excellent point about malaria. If I’m not mistaken I believe it’s one of Bill Gates’ signature philanthropic projects.

    One of the things I find interesting is that while the big for-profit media outlets do push the HIV/AIDS in Africa issue, the one source which has kept me informed about the malaria in Africa issue is… PBS.

    I’m just sayin’…

  3. Tom |

    Many millions of malaria deaths can be attributed directly to Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring and the radical environmental movement that grew out of it. Even to this day, when we all know that using DDT could save millions of lives in the future, just mentioning it generates a huge negative reaction from those same radicals. It’s amazing how deadly the combination of ignorance and radical political activism can be.

    As far as HIV/AIDS is concerned, whether in Africa or anywhere else, radical politics again dictates policy. As Green says in the article quoted:

    We liberals who work in the fields of global HIV/AIDS and family planning take terrible professional risks if we side with the pope on a divisive topic such as this. The condom has become a symbol of freedom and—along with contraception—female emancipation, so those who question condom orthodoxy are accused of being against these causes.

    Scholarship with integrity, open-minded inquiry into serious issues, freedom of speech—all sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and with no regard for the consequences.

  4. Brian |

    And ironically enough, it was the republican Nixon that started the EPA, largely as a result of Silent Spring. Carson ranks right up there with Stalin, Mao, and Hitler as far as I am concerned, perhaps even worse.

    As for HIV/AIDS, I don’t have much hope that we’ll come up with a cure. As far as I know, we don’t have any cures for any viral infections, and we’ve been trying for decades. Unfortunately, AIDS destroys the very system within our bodies that does what the USMC is so good at: destroying foreigners. You don’t die from AIDS, you die from the opportunistic infections that people with healthy immune systems rarely or never get – most notably a rare strain of pneumonia called PCP and a form of cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which is almost never seen outside of the AIDS community.

    The best hope we have for HIV/AIDS is a vaccine. We have vaccines for lots of deadly virii. We have eliminated small pox as a natural threat, and polio, while still a threat in the 3rd world, is on the wane.

    Sadly, there is nobody better informed on AIDS than we in the West, yet it is still prevalent here. It could be eradicated within the next 30 years or so…if those in high risk groups would change their behavior: monogamy/abstinence and avoiding IV self-medication, primarily with heroin and meth.

  5. Daniel Curran |

    And the CDC (Center for Disease Control)supports abstenence, also.

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