Doctor and skeptic Ben Goldacre, has some stern words for those in the Catholic Church who misinform their congregations about the role of contraception in helping to prevent the spread of AIDS. We’ve seen Benedict’s stance on how to deal with the virus already, a stance that ignores any and all evidence that condoms really do slow the spread of HIV and AIDS. And in his latest column, Goldacre sheds a light on the falsehoods that are blatantly spread by Catholic priests in Africa, lies which pretty much ensure that the diseases will rage out of control on the continent for the sake of preserving the purity of a dogma written well before the invention of the kind of effective contraception we take for granted today. Some notable examples include…
[Benedict’s] stance has been supported, in the past year alone, by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster. “It’s quite ridiculous to go on about AIDS in Africa and condoms, and the Catholic Church,” says O’Connor. “I talk to priests who say, ‘My diocese is flooded with condoms and there is more Aids because of them.'”
Some have been more imaginative in their quest to spread the message against condom use. In 2007, Archbishop Francisco Chimoio of Mozambique said that European condom manufacturers are deliberately infecting condoms with HIV to spread Aids in Africa.
Other gems, including messages which confuse immunization with a physical barrier for a virus carried in the bodily fluids being exchanged during sex, and comparisons of condoms to corks, are also mentioned, as well as the soaring rates of infection in the nations that are being actively told not to use condoms. So how pray tell do the Cardinals make the connection that it’s condoms which are at fault for higher rates of HIV and AIDS in Africa when the very priests who say they’re flooded in contraceptives are vilifying them? Of course they see an increase in infections. They’re demonizing the very things proven up to 95% effective at stopping transmission with proper use, and 80% in any and all cases. It’s like going into a war zone with bulletproof vests, declaring to soldiers that the vests are actually tainted with evil and don’t protect them anyway, letting them march into a storm of gunfire, then wonder why there are more soldiers dying from bullet wounds and declaring that it must be the vests, therefore the last thing the soldiers need are more vests. Which you told them not to use.
Just like the dangerous machinations of AIDS denialists, priests’ ignorance and arrogance when it comes to the AIDS epidemic in Africa are quite literally killing people. We know comprehensive sexual education works, there’s concrete data supporting its many advantages over abstinence-only dogma, and we also know that the pious, anti-scientific version of sex-ed actually drives STD rates upwards. And that’s why it’s a frustrating and aggravating challenge to stem HIV and AIDS infections in Africa. Those trying to make things better have a brick wall of arrogant, unyielding beliefs standing in their way, and human beings deaf to any reasons or logic that don’t support their indoctrinations or personal biases. Oh sure, these priests are more than willing to help those suffering from hunger and illness. They just need to make sure that those who are about the receive the help they’re willing to provide don’t require them to step outside of their ideologies. The result is that the death tolls for HIV and AIDS remain disturbingly high, and will stay that way for a long time to come. This is what you get when strict, merciless dogma is valued more highly than the lives of human beings.