“Abstain and be faithful won’t fight AIDS” was the headline of a column by Donna Laframboise in the National Post on August 2. She was ridiculing African Catholic bishops who condemned the use of condoms in fighting AIDS. She came to a very strong conclusion: “any religion that thinks you fight a public health catastrophe that threatens millions upon millions of lives by blaming condoms has lost all hope of attracting my respect – never mind my faith.”
Obviously she had not heard Dr. Margaret Ogola speak at the Cairo Conference on Population in 1994, or at the Toronto Conference on the Family and Education in 1996. Dr. Ogola was, and possibly still is, Executive Director of the Family Life Counseling Association of Kenya, and medical director of the Cottolenga Hospice for HIV-positive orphans. She declared that the “cultural imperialism” of population control has devastated her nation.
She said while poor mothers in Kenya have to make tremendous sacrifices in order to obtain medicines such as penicillin and even aspirin, when they walk out of the emergency ward of her hospital there is a family planning clinic a few yards away where every kind of contraceptive is available.
The distribution of millions of condoms, she maintained, has not only failed to stem the spread of disease but has broken down tribal taboos against promiscuous behavior. Western propaganda efforts have convinced millions of young Africans that sex with condoms is “safe sex” – with devastating effects. “The disbelief and shock in the reaction of young people when I tell them they have AIDS is heart-breaking,” she said in an interview. “‘But it was safe sex!’ they tell me.”
“Practically the only kind of health care you can get in this country,” Dr. Ogola said, centers on reproductive health and family planning.” “No individual,” she said, “not even the combined force of the churches – and it is a force to be reckoned with in this country – can compete with the massive propaganda and funding. … We have to tell the government to resist. That is very hard when the government is broke and the donors are offering millions for family planning.”
So here is a very different view from Donna Laframboise’s, from someone who is right in the middle of the fight against AIDS, and who has been convinced by her own experience that the policy Laframboise recommends with such assurance does not work. And she is not even a bishop!David Dooley Ph.D is Associate Editor of Catholic Insight