Who’s in the Real World?

The editorial of the Inquirer for December 6, 2012 entitled “In the Real World” made the case for the use of condoms to stop the HIV epidemic in the Philippines. To support its proposal the editorial cited statistics of increasing cases of HIV infections year after year and the numbers show that the trend is always upwards.

Then mention is made that the DOH stopped the purchase of condoms in 2001 and when the condoms ran out the number of infections increased. The editorial makes an implicit connection between the depletion of the supply of condoms of the DOH and the rise of HIV cases.

The next connection the editorial makes is that the Arroyo government acceded to pressure from the Catholic Church to stop supplying condoms, presumably to gain the support of the Catholic Church.

Finally the editorial states: “Unless the leaders of the Church are prepared to question the validity itself of the DOH (Department of Health) statistics, they should humbly accept the unavoidable conclusion that the no-condom policy they favor has put more Filipino lives – thousands more every year – at great risk. Christian duty requires nothing less.”

A sober consideration of the arguments will reveal that the assumptions on which the reasoning the editorial is based are false and so its conclusions will be compromised.

The author of the editorial seems to assume that the Filipinos who do not want to be infected by HIV can obtain condoms only via DOH. This is false: everyone knows these items are available in the drugstores and at prices even the poor can afford. Why complicate life and go to the inaccessible DOH supplies if the Filipino does not want to contract HIV? Just get them from the drugstore.

The next assumption is that condoms stop the transmission of the AIDS virus. This is false again: if condoms do stop the transmission of the HIV virus why is AIDS going beyond epidemic proportions in the first world where condoms flow in unlimited supplies?

The editorial blames the Catholic Church for putting many Filipinos at risk because of its no-condom policy. Here the assumption of the editorial is that Filipinos who do not use condoms are at risk of acquiring AIDS. This is false: the Filipino is at risk only when he adopts a risky behavior, even when he has a condom. In fact, the experience of these risk takers shows that when they are armed with a condom they take even bigger risks, and the chances of getting infected become bigger. The millions of Filipino couples who live normal and faithful married lives are not at risk.

The title of the editorial seems to imply that the position the editorial is adopting corresponds to the reality of things while the Catholic Church is out of touch with reality. I beg to disagree. If there is any institution in the world that knows AIDS patients up close and has done much service and care for them, it is the Catholic Church. If you go to Africa, America, and Australia where AIDS cases abound you will find Catholic health workers and centers taking care of people with the disease. The Church shows its compassion for these sick people by caring for them. The Church also shows compassion for every person by telling him the truth: the solution to the AIDS epidemic is one that involves attitude, not the supply of condoms. The attitude fostered by the use of condoms is one which trivializes sex: it tells you can have sex even when it’s risky. The attitude the Church fosters is totally opposed. The Church promotes chastity. The Church teaches that sex is sacred. It is meant for faithful married life and for the transmission of life.

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