Mistakes were made

New York City meets Munich

Keep it in your pants

February 16th, 2002 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Colin Powell goes on an MTV show and expresses that condoms are good way to prevent AIDS, saying

“It Is important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you should tell young people about,” Powell told an MTV music channel audience. “It’s the lives of young people that are put at risk by unsafe sex. And, therefore, protect yourself.”

Of course, the nitwit brigade pipes up aghast. Ken Connor, the president of the fundamentalist Christian group, the Family Research Council, foams at the mouth in a written statement:

In a shocking disregard for the truth, Secretary of State Colin Powell misled millions of young people worldwide when he advocated condoms to protect against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases… His irresponsible remarks could lead millions of young people to believe that condoms protect against STDs… They do not, as the National Institutes of Health has reported.

Now, I’m not a professional scientist or anything, but it only takes a wee bit of understanding of biology and disease to find Mr. Conner’s assertions to demonstrate a profound lack of what goes on during sex. Since I don’t want to be unkind and accuse him of either lying or being stupid, I’ll take it for granted he just doesn’t have sex. Let’s be honest, I don’t think there’s a lot of sex going on in a place like the Family Research Council.

Maybe he’s splitting hairs because condoms can’t completely guarantee protection, but medical science isn’t about complete guarantees, but harm reduction. Looking at the wrapper of a condom, I notice is says, quite clearly “Effective against pregnancy, HIV (AIDS) and STDS.” Federal law prohibits against making medical claims which are not clinically proven. So Colin Powell, at worst, is merely saying what his last condom told him. And that condom could tell him that because the Fed approved it.

And while condom manufacturers probably had to pay for some studies, turns out part of the government did some studies of their own. The National Institutes of Health did some research, and concluded that condoms are effective in preventing HIV. This is the same National Institutes of Health that Ken Connor is saying finds condoms ineffective against STDs. Huh?

Scrutinizing the statement made by the NIH, you can find this line:

A U.S. government review of research on male latex condoms concludes that they do prevent transmission of the HIV/AIDS virus, but that insufficient data exists to draw a conclusion about their effectiveness in preventing other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with members from other U.S. government agencies, the panel reported that it could not “draw definite conclusions” about how well condoms work in stopping the transmission of diseases such as syphilis, chlamydia, and genital herpes between sexual partners.

So Mr. Conner reads this, and thinks “Aha! Condoms don’t protect people!” Now, like me, he’s not a scientist, but I obviously understand science better than he does, because this statement doesn’t mean that condoms are ineffective. It just means it’s currently inconclusive. As a matter of fact, the very next line says:

An NIH press release also cautions that this result should not be interpreted as a testament to the ineffectiveness of condoms.

Not unless your Ken Conner, that is.

If you are going to be sexually active, using a condom is better than not using a condom. Duh.

But Ken Conner isn’t really upset that Colin Powell is giving “incorrect” advice about condoms. What he’s really bent out of shape about is that Colin Powell didn’t just tell people to not have sex until they are married. But if Mr. Conner reveals that, he knows everyone will laugh him out of town. So instead, he pretends he’s concerned about the accuracy of what Mr. Powell is saying.

There is such complete naivete in the religious right about why young people have sex. It’s like they think if no one talked about sex, or if a kids never see a condom, the idea of having sex will never occur to them. Of course, it just doesn’t work this way. Sexuality is a part of living, like eating and breathing. You can’t wish it away. A kid that wants to have sex isn’t waiting to get his hands on a condom to do it. He’s going to do it. The trick is to get a condom in his hands before he actually does do it, even if that condom isn’t a perfect solution.

The way you get kids to make smart decisions about sex is talk about sex openly and honestly. The places you find the most teenage pregnancies and STDs, including AIDS, are places where there is no sex education. If the religious right had their way, the only message that would be taught in schools is “don’t have sex until you are married.” That doesn’t qualify as useful sex education.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by all this, really. Ken Conner and the Family Research Council are the same people who get in an uproar about a Dr Pepper can design. If that’s not a case of micro managing the world, and precisely why these people are insane, I don’t what is.

I’m glad Colin Powell has some balls and some integrity, even though I’m sure his boss doesn’t approve. Keep it up, Colin.

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