It seems like every time I chat with someone about the Church's teaching on contraception, the
conversation always ends up on the subject of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, where the "clueless" Church and the "dangerous right-wing" conservatives are supposedly killing off the entire continent by refusing to support the mass distribution of condoms among the people there.
Well, okay, so let's look at that logic.
First off, condoms aren't working in Africa. As cited in this article, studies have indicated that there has been no meaningful difference in the number of HIV cases, and no examples of an HIV epidemic being turned back, in areas of widespread condom distribution.
On the other hand, in some poverty-stricken areas, a different approach has been tried. Programs emphasizing chastity have lowered the HIV rate from 21% to 6% in Uganda and from 30% to 10% in Kampala.
I mention that these areas are "poverty-stricken" specifically for this reason: many who push the proliferation of condoms among the poor do so under the assumption that they are not capable of the type of responsible behavior necessary for chaste behavior. How do I know this? Because they've told me. "It may work for you and your wife," I was told recently, "but we can't expect these people to have the discipline for something like that."
So much for the compassion of the "compassionate" social liberals out there.
But aren't we at least doing some good by getting condoms to the African people?
Well, consider that the general cost of a condom shipped to Africa is fifty cents. On the other hand, a meal can be provided to an African adult for twenty-five cents. For every condom we send to Africa, we could feed two hungry people. In an area such as Uganda, where the cost-effective chastity program is reducing the HIV numbers, we can focus our money on a more immediate concern: putting food into empty stomachs.
But common consensus is that we have to keep shipping condoms, boxes of them, to Africa. In fact, there are some cases in which we are shipping more condoms than just about anything else.
The website Food Not Condoms recounts the story of a woman who visited a health clinic in Africa. She opened the refrigerator where the antibiotics and medicine should have been stored and found nothing but three shelves stacked with boxes of condoms.
"Please," her guide told her, "when you get back to America, tell your country that we need band aids, and no more condoms!"
So yeah, the Catholic Church and social conservatives are a pretty heartless bunch, believing, as we do, that beans and rice make a slightly tastier meal for an African child than a piece of rubber.