The Pope, Condoms, the Pill and the People
By Tony R. Wafford
It looks like the Pope and the Roman Catholic are finally getting the message. No, I’m not talking about its position on birth control; although that is a major issue they really need to re-examine, but that’s for another time. You may know that recently, Pope Benedict XVI made comments about how the use of condoms could help in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and that condom usage under those circumstances would or could be justified. Many in the church seem to be confused about exactly what the Pope meant or what he was saying about condom usage. I’m hearing that the Pope’s stance on the condom issue has put some of the die-hard defenders of Catholicism’s teachings in an awkward position around issues of birth control, pre-marital sex and homosexuality. There are also a number of followers of the church that are angry about the Pope’s stance on the use of condoms. It’s also my understanding that many church officials worldwide have been conspicuously silent and some Bishops are even seeking clarification from the Vatican.
Of the millions of people from all over the world that lives in harm’s way; I just wonder how these good Christians feel about their conditions. The people that’s living in nations with the highest HIV infection rates and still wanting, needing and deserving to be loved and in love. You do know that there are people that are in relationships where one person is HIV positive and the other person is HIV negative. You also know that the Bible says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” and “Thou shall not kill”. Putting your loved ones in harm’s way, knowing your HIV status isn’t God’s way of doing things.
For Pope Benedict XVI to recognize that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is the worst deadly disease this world has ever seen since the Bubonic plague, is major! Here is a guy that, for all intent and purposes, should have no real concept of sex and sexuality that is, from a partial sense. With the Pope stepping up and effectively telling all those under his tutelage and others the importance of protecting ourselves, as well as our loved ones, is something to celebrate. Now you and I both know, if a guy that has made a vow not to have sex, can see the need to address the importance of using a condom, every sex having Reverend, Bishop, Elder, Pastor, Apostil, saved person and believer should step up to the plate and talk about HIV/AIDS and safer sex practices with all that will listen.
For Pope Benedict XVI to have the courage to set aside religious doctrine with the understanding that human nature sometimes supersedes Sunday morning sermons was a good thing. Reverend, Bishop, Elder, Pastor, Apostil, saved person and believer, let this be a sign that even though we know what’s right, we don’t always do what’s right. I guess that’s why the bible says, “When I want to do right, I find myself doing wrong.” We should all step up to the plate and talk about HIV/AIDS and safer sex practices to all that will listen. I know some of you are saying that the Pope changed his position from when he first went to Africa and said that the people shouldn’t use condoms because of religious doctrine. All I can say to that is, it’s better to learn the truth at daybreak and die at noon.
We had another major breakthrough, Gilead Sciences introduced Truvada. Truvada is a pill that’s taken daily and contains two anti-HIV drugs that could cut the risk of HIV infection in gay men by more than 70%. There is also reason for women to celebrate. Last July, although very little fanfare and celebration was made of it, but a Microbicidal Gel for women was introduced that could possibly block the transmission of the HIV virus by as much as 54% when used faithfully. Not that I am into comparing pain, because suffering is suffering, but if you work in the field of HIV/AIDS, you would have to ask yourself, why is it that if Black women are the fastest growing number of new HIV/AIDS infections in this country, and they are, why we weren’t as celebratory about the Microbicidal Gel as the media seemed to be about Truvada for gay men? Just a question….
A clinical trial involved 2,499 gay men and transgender women, groups chosen because they have a high risk of contracting HIV. This is a nice way of saying that they, for any number of reasons, engage in high risk sexual activity, i.e. drugs, drug abuse, mental illness, prostitution, sexual abuse, etc. Gay men account for 53% of all new HIV infections in the United States and a high proportion even in developing countries, so controlling transmission in that group could put a major dent in the epidemic. There are at least half a dozen other studies underway around the world looking at Truvada and other drugs in more than 100,000 heterosexual men and women and intravenous drug users.
Now, the not-so-good news is that this new drug is going to cost somewhere between $7,000 to $10,000 per year and it’s going to be years before there is a cheaper generic version of it. Until then let’s do all we can to support those in harm’s way by showing them love and support. Remember what James Baldwin once said, “People do not wish to be worse, they really wish to become better, but they often do not know how”.