Wednesday, October 17, 2007

On Safe Sex: Any Risk Is Unacceptable To Huckabee

This headline at Huffpo caught my attention. Huckabee Compares Safe Sex to Domestic Violence

Huckabee generated that headline by answering a question about whether or not his religious views would stop him from funding programs sponsored by the U.N. to combat aids. These programs promote safe sex practices including the use of condoms in order to stop the spread of aids. Huckabee responded by saying:
"If we really are serious about stopping a problem, whether it's drunk drinking...we don't say "Don't drive 'as drunk'?" ...This is an illogical thing that we apply to that one area that we don't apply to any other area. And I'm open-minded to all the arguments, if someone can convince me a little reckless behavior is OK. Maybe that's the message. But it would seem to me that if we're consistent in saying reckless behavior is undesirable we should ask people to move their behavior to the standard and not move the standard to the behavior...We don't say that a little domestic violence is OK, just cut it down a little, just don't hit quite as hard. We say it's wrong."
Huckabee uses the wrong analogy here. Encouraging condom usage to combat aids is like encouraging drunk people to take a taxi home. A very small percentage of these drunks will be involved in traffic accidents during their ride home, simply by dint of being in a vehicle travelling on the roadways. But the vast majority of the carnage caused by drunk driving would still be alleviated, and the same is undeniably true when it comes to using condoms to stop the spread of aids around the globe.

(Following is a reprise on the effectiveness of abstinence only vs condom usage to combat aids. Folks who are familiar with the arguments on both sides may find this tendentious and/or boring.)

Justifying opposition to these aids prevention programs on the grounds that the methods being used are not effective 100% of time is a very thin veil cast on a fundamentalist outlook. By that way of thinking, if even a very small percentage of those dying now will die after the preventative measures are funded, then those measures are a failure. The only answer is to promote an unrealistic approach, which, if entirely successful, would be effective at stopping aids. But the fundamentalist approach actually leads to increased death rates because abstinence programs are ineffective at stopping premarital sex.

In reality, the true objection is the theocratic notion that promoting condom usage somehow encourages extra marital sex. Accordingly, only a reliance on programs promoting sexual abstinence are acceptable, no matter how unrealistic it might be to expect everyone to lead chaste lives until marriage. I disagree strenuously with this conclusion. No one is forcing anyone to wear a condom and have sex. If a person wants to live a chaste life until marriage that is wonderful, and I wish them well. But that doesn't mean that the rest of humanity must live in ignorance and disease as the well meaning Americans preach the wonders of abstinence, all the while watching the aids epidemic wipe out millions of fornicators.

The question should be, will mankind ever be able to reach, or even approach perfect uniformity of abstinence before marriage. If the answer is no, (how can you honestly give a positive answer to that question) then it stands to reason that we should acknowledge reality and do our best to stop the spread of aids by encouraging condom usage. In fact, that seems like the real pro life view.

There may be people who hold fundamentalists views and somehow believe that aids can be stopped via humankind as a whole being brought to chastity. But those people ignore the whole of human history while holding an unrealistic outlook which contributes to the spread of a deadly disease. We are witnessing the results of this type of idealogically blinded outlook from the current resident of the Oval Office, and I don't think the nation cares for it.

What an odd juxtaposition of logic! First you imply that the standard shouldn't be "effective 100% of time", then you set a standard of "approach perfect uniformity". I think you need to re-think your wording.

"Justifying opposition to these aids prevention programs on the grounds that the methods being used are not effective 100% of time is a very thin veil cast on a fundamentalist outlook."

"The question should be, will mankind ever be able to reach, or even approach perfect uniformity of abstinence before marriage."
I do believe I covered that by using the verbiage "or even approach".

Condom usage actually does "approach" perfection in protecting the user from the aids virus.

How about this. If there is any way that pre marital sex can be brought to the levels of condom failure rates, (the cdc found condoms effective 85% of the time in protecting against aids infection) then we should go with abstinence training alone.

It simply is not realistic.
Abstinence is 100% effective. But I can read your mind, so I know that is not what you meant. You mean that abstinence training does not achieve 85% abstinence but condom usage is 85% effective. You are comparing training of one method with usage of another method.

Let's compare apples to apples. Compare abstinence training to condom training. How do we do that? Compare unwed mother birth rates and STD rates 50 years ago (when abstinence only was taught) with rates today. Abstinence wins.

I know a lot of other factors have changed over 50 years, so if you have a better way to make the comparison, I'd love to hear it.

The problem is that kids need to be taught to make good choices. Handing out condoms is giving tacit approval for sex. Then, the thinking goes, even though the kids are unable to make the wise decision to not have sex, they will be able to make the wise decision to always use a condom. That is just wrong, as common sense and statistics show.

But, some would argue, at least giving kids birth control information gives them the choice. Ignorance means they have no choice. This argument implies that sex is not a choice and that kids have no self-control or supervision. That is untrue so the argument is invalid.
I fear that you are the one who is talking apples and oranges Jeff. The programs this post discusses are NOT about sex education. It is about world wide aids prevention. The vast majority of these programs are targeted at adult populations of third world nations.

We do disagree about sex education for children, to be sure. But the notion that the adult population of Africa should be denied condoms due to a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint is postively disgusting. What it means at the end of the day are millions of deaths by aids, in the name of a religion which most of the people who are dying do not practice. They do not hold yours or mine religious views or moral judgements, but our nations leaders seem to think they ought too... and if they do not, too bad for them when they get aids.
Sorry for wasting bandwidth ranting about sex education for kids. Somehow after reading all the talk about chastity before marriage I forgot we were talking about the U.N. programs to combat AIDS.

My objections are less strenuous in that area. However, there are 2 points of disagreement:

1. Promoting condom usage does encourage extra marital sex. This is not theocratic, it is basic psychology. Offering people protection from their bad choices encourages bad choices. (But teaching adult condom usage also encourages responsible sex within marriage, so I am for it.)

2. Refusing to spend $50M to fight AIDS is not denying condoms to "the adult population of Africa."

So, should we give the U.N. money to fight AIDS? No. The bloated U.N. shouldn't be involved in such things. But that's another topic.
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