the editor of the Catholic Medical Quarterly SIR — The debate on condoms appears to have settled on two bones of contention; whether their use can combat the world wide problem of Aids, and whether at the personal level an infected person should only have intercourse with his partner when using a condom.
The recent admission by UNFPA that their widespread use to prevent HIV/Aids has failed would support a negative answer to the first question. It is supported by the firm encouragement given by Nelson Mandela to the “safe sex” strategy in South Africa where the use of condoms has increased dramatically over recent years. But South Africa remains the world leader in Aids infection, with 11.4 per cent of its population currently infected.
Dr John Richens agrees with Cardinal Trujillo that condoms encourage risky behaviour. Equally in Catholic Ethicists on Aids Prevention, edited by James Keenan SJ, most of the contributors are convinced that reliance on condoms is not sufficient to stem the tide. Among the many contributors, Paul Farmer, associate professor at the Harvard Medical School, reported on an extremely well-conducted study in Haiti, in 1990, where the use of condoms was actively encouraged but the level of Aids did not decrease. He concluded that poverty and social inequality are the forces behind Aids transmission. An information campaign satisfied with advertising condoms treats only the symptoms and ignores the deeper causes.
Regarding the second question, whether the infected person should always use a condom, we should remind ourselves of the findings of the National Institute of Health Report in America, which noted that consistent condom use reduces the yearly risk of contacting HIV from an infected sexual partner via vaginal sex by approximately 87 per cent. This indicates that 13 per cent of acts with the condom are likely to promote the infection; not a particular encouraging safeguard in a marriage. Although Cardinal Danneels (Report, July 30) is quoted as regarding unprotected sex in such a situation as murder, perhaps the above figures for protected sex might merit the charge of attempted murder.
It is all too easy to forget that the various contraceptive pills were introduced because of the inefficiency of the condom.
Yours faithfully, PETER DOHERTY London NW8 From Fr Joe McAuley SIR — Cardinal Danneels is confused. It is not a choice between two evils, but between two goods, one of which contains risks. No couple is obliged to have intercourse; they can abstain for good reasons, as did Joseph and Mary. There is, therefore, no obligation on a couple to have sexual relations if one of them is HIV positive. It would be good in itself for them to celebrate their love in this way, but it would also be good for them not to do so because, having weighed up the risks involved, they have discerned that this is not God's will for them.
If having sexual intercourse when one party is HIV positive is against the fifth commandment because there is a risk of infection, then it seems to me that it could well also be argued that driving is against the same commandment.
Yours faithfully, JOE MC AULEY St Bernard’s Glasgow From the campaign director of the UK LifeLeague SIR — Further to your small report (July 23), let me clarify the position of the UK LifeLeague, as some people have misinterpreted your piece. The UK LifeLeague, while constantly striving to be more professional in its approach, has not abandoned the tactics of “shock and awe”. Nor is it contemplating abandoning the use of graphic pictures in public places.
It is our aim to bring a businesslike efficiency, discipline and a work ethos to the pro-life movement that will attract dedicated professional people who will form the new generation of British pro-life activists.
However, we will continue to be “bolshy”, “pushy”, even “rude” while opposing baby-killings. We will continue to personally target and name and shame all those who kill or are part of the infrastructure that suppports the deliberate killing of the unborn. UK LifeLeague are certainly speaking in a softer tone, but our message is getting tougher.
Those involved in killing babies will be identified, vilified, stigmatised and publicly exposed by us, we hope, in an even more effective professional manner until all abortion is outlawed (not just those over 12 weeks).
Yours faithfully, NICOLA REARDON Glasgow