Thursday, October 13, 2005

Doctored letter

A very interesting and misleading letter published in the Star on Tuesday.

ABC method to prevent AIDS

I READ with concern the report, “Landmark ruling on HIV disclosure” (The Star, Oct 6) on a judge in New Zealand, who, in a court hearing, made a groundbreaking decision that men with HIV which causes AIDS are not legally obliged to tell their sexual partners of their condition if they use a condom.

I fear that this ruling may convey a wrong message with regards to AIDS prevention.
Usage of condoms may offer some protection in the transmission of HIV but this protection is not 100% and this evidence is backed by many studies.

The Catholic Church does not approve of condoms but instead advocates abstinence and marital fidelity.

Some may argue that the Catholic Church’s stance on condoms is causing death but this sort of thinking is illogical.

Studies in Uganda have shown that abstinence programmes had been successful in bringing down the prevalence of AIDS compared with other African countries such as Swaziland or Botswana where HIV transmission is rampant despite high condom usage.

Perhaps one should take the ABC approach to AIDS prevention:
1) ABSTAIN from sex;
2) BE faithful to one’s partner; and

Condoms are still only the third best option.

Whether the HIV epidemic would be different if the first message had been on marital sex only with a lesser emphasis on condoms is impossible to determine.

Bioethics Subcommittee,
Catholic Doctors Association of Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur.

Does anyone feel something fishy about the letter? A hidden agenda maybe?

Call me over-sensitive if you like, but the good doctor has somehow taken something which is factual and scientific and turn it into preaching about abstinence and the Catholic Church.

Instead of speaking from the medical point of view, it became a religious one.

Now, I have nothing against that. I respect his right to his opinion.

Let’s look at the letter again.

It started well when he disagrees with the New Zealand court’s decision. But instead of focusing on the consequences of it, he goes on to attack the effectiveness of condoms.

The U.S government provides funds for HIV prevention globally, especially to poorer countries and where the prevalence is high. Obviously, African countries are on the list of recipients of fund.

In the past three years, since the Bush administration came into place, it is pretty clear that they have a conservative policy.

And in this case, conservative does mean supporting the Catholic Church’s policy of not condoning condoms. In fact, the U.S. government has to resort to disparaging the efficacy of condoms to “scare” people into abstinence and being faithful.

Condom usage is an important part of a HIV/AIDS prevention program. No method works well by itself. In fact, the American Foundation for AIDS research (AmFAR) brochure states that:

The scientific evidence does not support the recent shift in U.S. government policy that stresses lack of condom efficacy in educational materials and other publications from organizations that receive federal funds. Rather, the evidence shows that both male and female condoms are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS, especially when used as part of a comprehensive prevention program.

It really gets to me when people use false information to propel their agenda. Especially when it is religion-related.

I would expect a doctor to be more careful, but in this case, his religion seems to have superseded his professionalism.

Oh, did I mention that the Uganda example is just plain wrong? It’s a “fact” hijacked by the U.S government and conservatives to promote the message that abstinence is the way to go.

Human beings will have sex, especially teenagers with their raging hormones and curiosity to experiment. Not having sex is no longer the thing to do. Condom is the most effective way of preventing the transmission of STDs, since people are going to have sex anyway.

Promoting abstinence and at the same time spreading lies about condoms are putting people's lives at risk. It’s like telling people to not play with fire and saying that fire extinguishers are not effective.

If people are going to play with fire regardless or if a fire is going to happen anyway ... I am sure you get my point.

However, let me stress that condoms are not 100% effective. But it is sufficiently effective to prevent HIV infection.

The below is taken from here.

At the behest of Coburn and other condom critics, National Institute of Health in June 2000 convened a panel of experts for a two-day workshop to examine the body of evidence on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the transmission of eight STDs: HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, chancroid, trichomoniasis, genital herpes and HPV. The panel considered 138 peer-reviewed articles in all.

It determined that "condition-specific" studies were sufficiently methodologically strong to warrant a definitive conclusion only for HIV and gonorrhea. Accordingly, in its carefully worded summary report issued in July 2001, the panel concluded that consistent and correct condom use prevents (in addition, of course, to pregnancy) transmission of HIV between women and men and gonorrhea transmission from women to men.

Beyond that, the panel concluded, the published epidemiologic literature is insufficient to warrant definitive statements specific to the other six STDs considered by the panel.

That there are insufficient studies specific to the six other STDs reviewed by the panel to warrant a definitive statement does not mean, however, that no assumptions can be made about the protective effect of condoms with regard to those diseases. Indeed, a critical conclusion in the workshop summary report that largely has been overlooked is that condoms are "essentially impermeable" to even the smallest of STD viruses. Based on that finding—that "studies...have demonstrated that condoms provide a highly effective barrier to the transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD virus"—two important assumptions can be made and, in fact, are made in the workshop report itself.

So there.

When supposedly "intelligent" people are so easily misled, when they can't think for themselves and didn't check the facts properly, what more about the rest of society?


Chris said...

Somehow i have the feeling that the doctor is bias towards same sex sexual relationship... I do respect people's religion, but I still believed that, the current religion books are all twisted and shaped to suits the bishops and cradinals or any religious people.

Just my thought there... its not meant to criticise anyone... so don't mind me... ^^;

Espion said...

I am sorry, but I will be off-topic here.

And that is this phrase I finding gnawing, irritating, and annoying, namely, "I respect this and that, but ... "

Does "respect" mean anything in such a phrase?

If you want to say you disagree, why don't you just say you disagree. Why need to preface it with "I respect but ..."? Did I say anything less just saying, "I disagree"?

It is clear that we all have different opinions. So what do you mean when you say, you respect his opnion but you disagree?

Do you mean that you think his opinion wrong, baseless, flawed, but nonetheless it was becoming, proper and fitting of the opinion holder, and so deserving your "respect"?

Or are you saying that you disagreeing just to his opinions but not disagreeable to the person of the opinion holder? ie you respect the person or persons (even if you dont know who they are personally) but not his/their opinions.

Or are you saying his opinion is his opinion, it does not bother you, has no effect or impact on you, and you hold another, different, and even opposing one, and that it wont bother you to change his either. Then respect here means that you do not intend to interfere to try to change what his opinions are. He can keep his opinion but dont try to push it on me.

Or it is just the soothing stroke before you deliver the slap, and that respectful delusion is necessary because it comforts you that you have "respected" the person? And you can slap him the harder for it.

So what do you mean when you say you respect this and that, but ....

I am sorry. I respect what you guys are saying BUT I am perplexed, befuddled and entirely disrepectful! And please respect my opinions. Thank you.

Derek said...

chris: Oh yes, the Catholic Church has the resources, plenty of it, to spread their views.

espion: It's a common expression and I am actually quite surprised that you are mightily pissed with it.

When I say that, I mean that someone has the right to his opinion and I have heard his; now it's my turn for you to hear mine.

Of course, you are right to say that it's more direct to just say I disagree.

But then people will usually get defensive and don't like to be told they are wrong. And when that happens, it will difficult for me to say my point of view.

It's all a matter of being civil actually. Why antagonise him from the moment I open my mouth?

Espion said...

I am mighty pissed not only with this but many other apparently well-meaning and otherly-concerned words and social gestures but are all ultimately self-serving.

In this matter of opinions, I think it better, and indeed more civil, just to say I disagree.

If the other party reacts disagreeably to that, then it is only a reflection of his maturity, or its lack; and it will be hardly worth your effort to continue to disagree with him at all: just let fools be fools.

The reason I am most disagreeable to these 'civilities' is the hypocrisy hidden within and motivating them. And worst is when people don't realise it. And my view of this is that people are naturally hypocrites.

For example people not wanting to told wrong. If I never think I can be wrong why should I want to hear you at all? The reason you want me to hear you is because you think I am wrong, at least in some ways. But if you have to create a sneaky delusion to secretly penetrate my shield of correctness, then dont bother.

So if indeed you respect my opinion then the true thing to do is shut up.

But if you think, despite acknowledging that I could have reasons to say what I said, or after giving me the benefit of the doubt that I know something you don't, that it still seems wrong to you, then just say so.

Or if you think it is true in parts then say which parts you disagree. Or if you think it is correct but incomplete, also just say so.

And depending on my reaction and response you will also know whether it is worth exchanging views with me.

And also all parties are indeed better off this way and you carry no 'sin' of hypocrisy too.

And regarding antagonising the other, the fact that you are speaking against him is because you were in the first place antagonised by his views, and you want to set him right. And a respectful way is the best way to do it.

I dont think I have to do that if I truly have no intention of antagonising anyone.