Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If Anyone Can, the Vatican Can

An official at the Vatican is reported to have called for universal, free access to HIV drugs and greater investments into finding a cure. We are not told if they are going to put up some of the funding. But it's interesting that they object to the use of condoms to protect people from HIV infection, yet they think research into treatment and the like should be encouraged and the drugs should be made available to all.

Of course, the Vatican is full of surprises. You'd think unsafe healthcare would be a HIV related issue the they would embrace, given their inherent lack of understanding of sexual and even human relationships, both between heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals. Lack of access to safe healthcare and the harm that unsafe healthcare can do is known to contribute considerably to morbidity and mortality, not just in relation to HIV.

Perhaps they'd be interested to know that, of 17 billion injections given every year, 7 billion of them are unsafe? That this causes 21 million cases of hepatitis B and another 2 million cases of hepatitis C? About 5% of HIV is estimated to be transmitted through unsafe injections (though the figures is said to be 25% for India and there are no figures for individual African countries) and 0.9% of all deaths worldwide.

Apparently use of auto-disable syringes in Tanzania reduced the average time patients stayed in hospital from 7 days to 3 days. Wouldn't the Vatican wish to exert its considerable influence towards increasing use of auto-disable syringes and eradicating healthcare associated infections? This can all be done without a single condom being unwrapped. Instead of the horror of health workers demonstrating how to unwrap and don a condom, they could show people what they need to look out for when they are about to be injected, or to undergo some other kind of invasive procedure.

Another thing, even if the Vatican is opposed to homosexuality, at least among people who are not ordained priests or brothers who have taken a vow of chastity, the might care to express their opposition to persecution, bigotry, assaults and murder that are regularly carried out against people who engage in same gender sex, and even those who are suspected of doing so. I don't remember reading of any protests from the Vatican about the recent public stoning to death of a man in Nairobi, said to have been found having sex with another man, who escaped. Nor do I remember them deploring various homophobic acts in Uganda, including several murders.

The Vatican could make an impact on the fight against bigotry, rather than contributing to it. They could also help reduce HIV infection rather than allowing it to happen, only to call on others to provide those infected with drugs and possibly other healthcare services. How is it even their business to object to the use of condoms to prevent HIV infection? If they have failed to have any impact on the behavior they object to so much, the least they can do is keep quiet about other issues, instead of doing a lot more harm than good.

[For more about non-sexual HIV transmission and mass male circumcision, see the Don't Get Stuck With HIV site.]



Anonymous said...

US gays have 32X the HIV rate of men (straight and gay) in some Kenyan districts. Kenyan gays have 67X the HIV rate of men (straight and gay) in some Kenyan districts.




Could anal sex be a bigger problem than unsafe heathcare?

Simon said...

Thank you for your comment. The point is that the Vatican doesn't wish to recommend condom use and they are not in a position to lecture people about sex and safe sex anyway. So they could concentrate on things that are clearly their territory, such deprivation, bigotry, persecution, murder, etc.

However, the number of Kenyan gay men infected with HIV is often a confused estimate that includes the male prison population. Because non-sexual transmission is assumed not to occur much, in and out of prisons, this estimate for gay men and prisoners is very large, possible three times what it should be.

But that means that the actual numbers of people infected with HIV through unsafe healthcare would be roughly the same.

You don't mention heterosexual anal sex, which may be more common than estimates suggest. But again, the Vatican is not in favor of all kinds of sexual behavior so it's better if they don't oppose condoms and other HIV prevention methods, only to call for treatment once people have been infected.

They have had no success in preventing the disease so they should stop confusing people and concentrate on things they might be able to have more influence on and things that should certainly be of concern to them, as mentioned above.

jenifer said...
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arman said...
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