Serena Freewomyn

Catholic Church Takes Aim at Condoms

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | July 31, 2008 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Politics
Tags: Catholic church, condoms, HIV/AIDS, reproductive justice, sexual health

A Catholic group called Human Life International has put up billboards in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to fight the scourge of condom usage.

human-life-international.jpg Human Life International's website claims that their mission is to "fight the evils of abortion, contraception, sex education and family breakdown." I suppose the AIDS epidemic doesn't cause family breakdown. But these are the same people who argue that condoms don't prevent HIV/AIDS.

Unfortunately, members of the public uncritically accept the government and the condom manufacturers at their word. And nobody (except a few pro lifers, who are universally ignored) seems to be asking the most vital question of all.

If condoms are so effective at preventing pregnancy and AIDS transmission, why do nations that stress their use continue to experience a rapidly escalating rate of teen pregnancy and an exploding AIDS epidemic?

The HLI website lists a number of factors that can cause condoms to fail:

  • Condoms break and slip off;
  • They age. One study found that the breakage rate for condoms increased from 3.6% for new condoms to as high as 18.6% for condoms several years old.[4]
  • They deteriorate in even the best of conditions, but even more rapidly in extremely cold or hot situations. Condom wrappers recommend storing the product at temperatures between 59 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. One researcher found that, at major condom distribution points in New Jersey and New York, boxes of condoms were left outdoors in the ice and snow during the dead of winter. During the summer months, the researcher took photographs of eggs frying on the floors of dozens of trucks and containers where condoms were stored in temperatures exceeding 180 degrees.[5] High temperatures cause oxidation and freezing temperatures cause crystallization in some of the chemical compounds that make up condoms, leading to cracking, drying, shrinking and drastic loss of flexibility and strength. Keep in mind that condoms exported from the United States sit in uninsulated shipping containers in extreme weather conditions for even longer periods of time;
  • If taken out of the package and left unused for a long period of time, they are liable to ozone deterioration, which causes damage invisible to the eye;
  • Improper use of oil-based lubricants can degrade them;
  • They get broken in their packages;
  • They have allowed rates of manufacturing defects. The present acceptable quality limit (AQL) for North American condom manufacturers is 99.6% of condoms free of leaks. The British AQL is 97%, and the Dutch AQL is 96.5%;
  • The users are caught up in passion and do not properly follow the ten- to sixteen-step process for safe usage [6];
  • The users are compromised by the use of alcohol, marijuana, illegal drugs, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, or exhaustion; and
  • Bodily secretions can get around and over a condom even if it performs perfectly.

These are all valid points. But that just seems to prove the need for medically accurate, comprehensive sex education. Instead of posting misleading billboards in a country that is ravaged with HIV, you would think that HLI would take a more compassionate stance. After all, isn't that would Jesus would do?


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If condoms are so effective at preventing pregnancy and AIDS transmission, why do nations that stress their use continue to experience a rapidly escalating rate of teen pregnancy and an exploding AIDS epidemic?

UGH!!! The exploding rates are because of ridiculous groups like this! Their "abstinence only" and "condoms don't work" campains are deadly and criminal.

The condoms are just fine. The potential users need some work, however. It doesn't do any good if they are in the drawer and not on the person.

Not surprisingly, countries where women have little personal power have high rates of teen pregnancy and HIV. Most men either don't like condoms or think that wearing one makes them less of a man. Wives can't get their husbands to use them. Prostitutes can't get their clients to use them, particularly if other prostitutes don't insist on condom use. Young girls find "sugar daddies" to pay their school fees (because their families don't see girls' education as worthwhile, or educate the boys but not the girls if there isn't enough money to do both). Young girls get raped.

HLI, as you might guess, is an anti-abortion outlet. They have an extensive history of intentional deception and organizational irregularities. HLI was founded by a Roman Catholic priest but is not formally affiliated with the Catholic Church at any level.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 1, 2008 12:42 AM

Interesting Nancy. The Roman Church will prohibit priests from being involved in government, but will tolerate a rouge priest zealot who sends this deadly message coupled with papal shame.

This is completely irresponsible. People are not going to stop having sex and condoms are the best defense against AIDS. No one should face a death sentence for experiencing sexual pleasure,. This policing of sexuality needs to stop it is dangerous. If the church values life that much they should be promoting condom use. Decry the act if you have to but leave the life saving paraphernalia alone.

The condoms are just fine. The potential users need some work, however. It doesn't do any good if they are in the drawer and not on the person.

Amen, Nancy.

I don't know about anyone else, but I definitely must condomn this particular religious prohibition.

It's funny, because some US "pro-life" orgs will often include times when condoms aren't used in their supposed failure rates.

A lot of their facts on their list here are just "X is possible" sort of things. I know that makes it easier to push their agenda, but they should at least have the decency to say that they're not pushing medically accurate info.