Thursday, April 2, 2009

Abstinence, Condoms and the Rise in Teen Pregnancy

Over at the Opine-Editorials there is an excellent post on the recent reporting of the increase in teen pregnancy in this country. Some good perspective on the study and well worth your time to visit there.

Reading the comments, I noticed the usual attempt to blame abstinence programs on the rise in pregnancy and the posting does address this to some degree.

I've never understood how abstinence programs could not work. Of course I've never thought it was government's place to teach my children (or anybody else's) about sexual matters. And in today's world of over sexualized youth, the idea that if kids don't learn about contraception and sex in school they'll somehow remain ignorant of the matter strikes me as unlikely.

The latest brouhaha over the Pope's statements about condoms in Africa have begun to shed some light on the matter for me.

For the all the ugly, tastless, vulgar remarks aimed at the Pope (and you don't have to be Catholic (I'm not) to feel that way) it seems that the Pope was right. You can go here for the original post about that.

The answer to lower HIV rates, lower pregnancy rates etc appears to be in simply teaching people (children included) that there is a better way:

Uganda provides the clearest example that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is preventable if populations are mobilized to avoid risk. Despite limited resources, Uganda has shown a 70% decline in HIV prevalence since the early 1990s, linked to a 60% reduction in casual sex. The response in Uganda appears to be distinctively associated with communication about acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) through social networks. Despite substantial condom use and promotion of biomedical approaches, other African countries have shown neither similar behavioral responses nor HIV prevalence declines of the same scale. The Ugandan success is equivalent to a vaccine of 80% effectiveness. Its replication will require changes in global HIV/AIDS intervention policies and their evaluation. (more from Sciencemag)

Due to a phenomenom described by Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.” (NRO)

Risk compensation then would be a concern not only in matters of HIV infection but in matters of casual sex and teen pregnancy.

In its obsession with condoms, the Western public-health community has been every bit as dogmatic as the pope. And it has been even more blinkered to the realities of Africa, which is arguably in the grips of a huge religious and moral revival that has a huge potential to be wielded in the fight against AIDS. Church attendance is soaring, and Africans are willing to make sacrifices, of both their money and their pleasure, for moral causes. In this respect, it is not Benedict and the Catholic Church who are out of touch. It is the West and its condom myopia. (NRO)

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