Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editorial, Opinion Pieces Debate Merit of Condoms in HIV Prevention, Sex Education Efforts
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday published an editorial and two opinion pieces discussing the value of including information on condoms in sex education and HIV prevention efforts. Summaries of the pieces appear below:
Condoms 'Save Lives'
Education about condoms "has been prove[n] to save lives," and individuals who spread a "false message" about the efficacy of condoms "become conspirators in unnecessary deaths," a Journal-Constitution editorial says. The Bush administration is currently "spreading the bogus idea that condoms are ineffective at preventing pregnancy and the transmission of HIV/AIDS," the Journal-Constitution says. Further, President Bush appointed former Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has publicly stated that "the American people (should) know the truth of condom ineffectiveness," to co-chair the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS. While Coburn is "entitled to his opinion, ... he should not feel free to twist and distort scientific fact to support it," the Journal-Constitution says, adding that when used correctly, condoms are 99% effective at preventing the spread of HIV and 97% effective at preventing pregnancy (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/22).
Condoms 'Do Not Make Sex Safe Enough'
The public health establishment "[t]ragically ... seems to wed to [condoms as the] one primary response" to the current "epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases ... striking America's young people," despite scientific evidence that the approach has failed, Dr. Joe McIlhaney, president and founder of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, writes in an opposing Journal-Constitution opinion piece. Condoms "do not make sex safe enough," providing no risk reduction for transmission of human papillomavirus and "some but far from 100% risk reduction" for other STDs, McIlhaney says. Instead of focusing primarily on condoms, sex education programs must promote abstinence, McIlhaney concludes (McIlhaney, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/22).
Condoms, Abstinence Both Important
"Too often" in the debate over condoms -- which has been rekindled by Bush's global AIDS initiative -- "scientific evidence has been interpreted selectively to denigrate condoms and by implication promote an ideology that views abstinence and marital fidelity as the only acceptable ways to prevent HIV," Dr. James Buehler, a research professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, writes in a Journal-Constitution opinion piece. Research shows that participants of abstinence-only sex education programs are less likely to use condoms when they do become sexually active than participants of comprehensive sex education programs, Buehler says. While promoting abstinence should be an "integral part" of HIV prevention education, condoms must also be included, Buehler concludes (Buehler, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/22).