Catholic Church offered solution to AIDS crisis?
June 15, 2001 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Catholic Church offered solution to AIDS crisis? Though I certainly lean more left than right, I have The National Review in print an online for many years to get some balance in my media intake. I must say, they have run numerous articles online of late that I felt were well-reasoned, fair and insighful. This, however, is crap. "Many have tut-tutted the Church for opposing condoms even as an AIDS prevention tool. Some have even called the Church complicit in AIDS deaths. But, as it has turned out, condoms aren't a very good AIDS-prevention tool after all. [emphasis mine] " So now condoms are not useful for preventing AIDS. Did we miss something?
posted by 4midori (27 comments total)

the rationale for saying that condoms do not work, i'm assuming, is "just because." no data is given in the op/ed; though as far as your faith in the paper, 4midori, at least it was an outsider's poorly reasoned opinion rather than someone from the National Review. i especially liked the blurb about homosexuals "going straight" at the end through psychological therapy, especially when it has been demonstrated that this is impossible (and homosexuality consequently stricken from the DSM-III and on). but boguscience is alive and kicking, i guess.
posted by moz at 12:47 PM on June 15, 2001

I've not found any large studies of the effectiveness of condoms in containing AIDS. Hell, I'm not even totally convinced that HIV, HTLV-III, or whatever the latest virus under watch is, can be said to cause AIDS. I'm partial to a study that showed that Human Herpes 3 might be a good place to look (a known T-cell killer) but it's not politically correct to study, so it gets no real funding.

Without a clear understanding of what causes AIDS, can we be sure that latex condoms will prevent transmission? Or, should we go with the Church route, and only allow sex between heterosexual virgins after marriage? That'd kill off AIDS pretty damn quick, you know.
posted by dwivian at 12:58 PM on June 15, 2001

Without a clear understanding of what causes AIDS...

posted by jpoulos at 1:01 PM on June 15, 2001

i think it's quite reasonable to say that there is a strong correlation between HIV and AIDS, which is enough; i mean, hell, we don't clearly know much of any hard science, since we are merely observing it.
posted by moz at 1:02 PM on June 15, 2001

I'm going to get my medical advice from an organization that believes a guy rose from the dead, and now watches us constantly.
posted by Doug at 1:02 PM on June 15, 2001

Doug: they also believe that every Sunday, priests turn bread into that guy's 2000 year-old flesh. That one always got me.
posted by jpoulos at 1:05 PM on June 15, 2001

> the rationale for saying that condoms do not work, i'm
> assuming, is "just because."

If I poured some cyanide Kool-aid into a little latex-film bag would you put it in your mouth and squish it around a bit? No? But you would depend on a little latex-film bag to keep you from getting AIDS? Darwin award, says I.
posted by jfuller at 1:10 PM on June 15, 2001

Here's an article that may or may not be insightful regarding some gays' attitude towards HIV. Kinda old (1998) too but note that the term "barebacking" seems to have become quite mainstream as of late. Should the Review's numbers in this article be considered lies, damned lies, or statistics?
posted by greensweater at 1:14 PM on June 15, 2001

They know a great deal about how HIV causes AIDS, and they're learning more all the time. Any mysticism remaining about how "we're not sure" is either politically motivated or the result of deliberate self-deceit.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:27 PM on June 15, 2001

This is simplistic, and unrealistic, but: if large numbers of people could be persuaded to use condoms for intercourse, the numbers on AIDS and other STDs would plummet.
posted by 4midori at 1:31 PM on June 15, 2001

thanks for putting words in my mouth, jfuller. that must be how you win all your arguments.

what, do you people think latex is full of holes that all this semen escapes through? what next, are you going to snark about a darwin award for the guy who believes seatbelts might improve his chances of surviving a car crash?
posted by moz at 1:38 PM on June 15, 2001

Latex is, in fact, full of holes. The holes just happen to be smaller than the HIV virus.
posted by skwm at 1:51 PM on June 15, 2001

> what, do you people think latex is full of holes that all
> this semen escapes through?

I think they break. You want to be AIDS-free, keep your zipper zipped and your wick dry.

Incidentally, latex film is full of micro-perforations that may be large enough to pass viruses or may not, depending on how small the virus is.
posted by jfuller at 1:57 PM on June 15, 2001

Yes, HIV causes AIDS.

Unless, of coures, you believe that there is a government conspiracy to draw out the epidemic. Though, how They find time to spread AIDS while selling drugs to the inner-city and watching us with black helicopters, I'll never know...
posted by conquistador at 1:59 PM on June 15, 2001

i think the larger issue with condom safety, or what lack there is, has much more to do with the inability of people to put condoms on correctly than with breakage...
posted by moz at 2:01 PM on June 15, 2001

As I said, HH3 also kills off T cells, and since AIDS has been found in people with no HIV, I know it to be more than just HIV. HH3 is also smaller than HIV, so if it is ALSO a cause (remember, syndromes can have multiple causes), then condoms are not proof.

Which, of course, has nothing to do with the breakage issue. With condoms only being 95% effective in pregnancy issues (and sperm are much larger than HH3 or HIV), I'm not going to take the 5% risk on AIDS. 95% just isn't enough.

No government conspiracy for the HIV question, btw -- I just took enough statistics in college to realize that a coorelation of "both found at the same time" is not a causal relationship. I haven't seen enough good studies of introduction of HIV, controlled, to see if it is the sole source of AIDS propogation. It's a strong referent, but the HH3 study I saw showed that HIV can accompany HH3 easily, and can arrive after HH3 exposure.

The problem in the funding community is that HIV is now the "de facto" cause, and any disagreement won't get funding. I happen to think that AIDS is too big a problem to not research completely. Maybe I'm just weird that way, but without a complete understanding, we won't get a complete solution and cure.
posted by dwivian at 2:18 PM on June 15, 2001

For the record:

(1) "HIV virus" is incorrect, as "HIV" already includes the word "virus" ("HIV virus" really annoys people in the field).

(2) Yes, condoms have microscopic "holes."

(3) HIV is smaller than the "holes" in a condom.

(4) HIV cannot travel without a host - typically semen or blood (which are both MUCH bigger than the "holes" in a condom); therefore, HIV can only theoretically travel through an intact condom.

(5) You can easily learn more about the effectiveness and correct use of condoms.
posted by conquistador at 2:18 PM on June 15, 2001

totally convinced that HIV, HTLV-III, or whatever the latest virus under watch is

heh, i haven't seen HTLV-III in, like, a decade or something.

HTLV-III and HIV-1 are the same virus. LAV was the French designation. HTLV-III was the American's. part of the settlement for dispute over who discovered the virus the causes AIDS was that the French and American teams would share credit, and the virus would officially be designated HIV. there's no "whatever the latest virus under watch," as far as the accepted science goes.
posted by tolkhan at 2:23 PM on June 15, 2001

The concept that condoms lead to "riskier" sexual behavior is without any justification. They acknowledge that condom use has gone down and HIV infection why is the Catholic Church right all along? Nothing in this article refutes the notion that consistently using condoms greatly reduces the risk of HIV infection.

Or perhaps it's because homosexuals are hard-wired to sexual danger.
posted by modofo at 4:01 PM on June 15, 2001

"HIV virus" is incorrect, as "HIV" already includes the word "virus" ("HIV virus" really annoys people in the field).

So is the correct use of the term: "Hi Virus Howyadoin?"
posted by ZachsMind at 10:29 PM on June 15, 2001

well the view from bermi village in tanzania (where i am right now) is disturbing. the local mission hospital screens blood. 60% is hiv+, a truly frightening figure. the life expectancy of a sufferer here is less than five years. tanzania is facing a holocaust. when i look at my neighbours and realise 60% will die soon, just breaks my heart. i honestly have difficulty sleeping some nights.

the mission have a strict policy on condoms - if any member of staff or trainee at the medical school are found in posession of a condom they are immediately dismissed.

i have heard the priests preaching that condoms spread aids and if you use one you will catch aids.
may i repeat 60% are already hiv+

the attitude of the church is beyond mere condemnation. i think the church will look again at the matter when the priests die of aids. i have been in africa and tanzania a lot and i have NEVER met a celibate priest. NEVER
posted by quarsan at 4:01 AM on June 16, 2001

Four words: Nobel winner Kary Mullis. Four more words: invented polymerase chain reaction. Nine more words: Doesn't believe HIV is proven to cause AIDS yet.

He knows more about this than anyone on this thread. So don't be so quick to assume anything. Until the science is done, and done rigorously to a standard that would be applied to any other disease, we know as much as they did when the CDC was blaming poppers: that is to say, much less than we think.

That being said, if AIDS even might be caused by HIV and spread through sexual contact, it's very much worth the while to take precautions...and as much as I hate to agree with the same Church that seems to believe supreme spiritual authority derives from whoever wears the spiffiest headgear, abstinence is the only way to be sure you cannot spread a disease sexually. It's also a dandy contraceptive.

Now, if they'd just allow for masturbation...

(Note: Please don't throw away your condoms based on anything on MetaFilter. We don't know squat, we just like to talk. Check out the sources yourself, please.)
posted by Ezrael at 4:37 AM on June 16, 2001

let me point out to those skeptics over proof whether HIV causes AIDS or not that proof of anything in science is very difficult to come by. i cannot prove to you that gravity on this earth is of a constant acceleration; i did not invent the earth, nor did i invent gravity, nor do i have any control over either. it is possible, however, to observe gravity and its acceleration--it is thus that most scientific laws are observed. the key word being observed. odd as it may seem, scientific "laws" are laws because they've been right up until now, but there's no guarantee that we didn't get something wrong.

"Half of the people who have HIV develop AIDs within 10 years after becoming infected."

"In addition, the polymerase chain (PCR) and other sophisticated molecular techniques have enabled researchers to document the presence of HIV genes in virtually all patients with AIDS, as well as in individuals in earlier stages of HIV disease."

Dissenting on AIDS:

i am, at best, skeptical of kary mullis. he firstly claims that most people who have AIDS are either homosexual or IV drug users, which strikes me as very convenient for someone with what may be a religious agenda, though that is not explicitly claimed. further on, he states that "schoolchildren are subjected to safe-sex education"; oh, how cruel of us! but it gets better.

"Actuary Robert W. Maver has examined the latest CDC data base and finds that the number of teen-age (13-19) cases of AIDS not involving homosexual or I.V. drug behavior is only 5. Five kids in the entire United States"

proof please. i want the study. i want to see an official study with someone's name besides kary mullis claim this. when i went to the CDC's database site, through 1981-1996, i see in the US alone 1087 cases of AIDS in HETEROSEXUAL teens aged 13-19. gee, how did that happen? if you would like to see this for yourself, you can. click on the anonymous user button, and you can search from there.

"It is time to ask whether any strain of HIV is harmful." This based on a dubious claim that 150 chimpanzees licked HIV as though it were a cold, and the intimation that not all HIV strains are fatal. So, let's get his logic straight: "because not everyone with HIV dies, maybe none of the strains are harmful!" except for all the people who have died.

i find kary mullis' claims to be of dubious, dubious origins. forgive me if i reject him as a credible source in the argument against the cause of AIDS through HIV.
posted by moz at 9:03 AM on June 16, 2001 [1 favorite]

i have heard the priests preaching that condoms spread aids and if you use one you will catch aids.

This is the most appalling thing I have heard in a long time. How can you stand it?
posted by rodii at 9:14 AM on June 16, 2001

The Catholic Church throughout Africa has, needless to say, some serious problems.

A few decades ago, the Vatican had to answer for such horrendous Church-sponsored crimes as the Crusades and the corruption of popes. More recently, they've had to answer for their silence during the Holocaust. Soon, the world will be asking "what about Africa?"
posted by jpoulos at 4:31 PM on June 16, 2001 [1 favorite]

...and, so far at least, that's not a question they care to hear.
posted by jpoulos at 4:33 PM on June 16, 2001

"Four words: Nobel winner Kary Mullis." Five more words: Crazy as a shithouse rat

Don't forget that Mullis also believes he was been visited by aliens, that a friend saved his life (while he was sucking on nitrous oxide) by astral projection, and that brown recluse spiders aren't poisonous (they simply scrape bacteria from the skin into their bitewounds). And let's not get started on the talking raccoon.

I don't disagree with the rest of your post, but Mullis is probably not the best authoritative citation.
posted by joaquim at 11:18 AM on June 18, 2001 [1 favorite]

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