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India “Fights” AIDS (or not)

Posted by MDViews on August 6, 2005

From the AP comes this gem. “India to Fight Aids with Female Condoms”. Apparently, India is distressed that the AIDS epidemic continues despite the Indian government’s attempt at pushing condoms. It appears, according to this article, that India is now #2 in the world in cases of AIDS at 5.1 million, just behind South Africa. One third of cases are in women, 15% in “sex workers” and 25% in housewives with one partner.

So, the solution is obvious. Empower women by providing cheap, “female condoms”. I won’t go into what a female condom is or how it works. Suffice it to say, it has never caught on in the US.

Oh dear. Where to start.

First, AIDS or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS is 100% preventable. You, dear reader, can make yourself nearly 100% safe from the AIDS virus. Since it’s spread requires the transfer of blood or bodily fluids from one person to another, prevention is easy. Don’t use IV drugs and share needles. Wait until married to have sex and then have one partner for life. Oh, and try to limit your number of blood transfusions, although with current testing the blood in the US in nearly 100% free of the AIDS virus. Of course, you could get in a horrible car accident and lose lots of blood, require a transfusion to recover and get one of the six tainted units that has been estimated for the entire US this year. Or you could be married and your spouse has an affair with an HIV infected person and bring the virus back to you. Not unheard of, but I would say it’s a problem that is relatively rare. So, I guess saying that HIV is 100% preventable may be a slight overstatement–but not much of an overstatement.

Second, the data on the prevention of HIV transmission by condom use is very iffy. The one study that showed condoms of benefit of which I am aware found that couples with one infected partner with both aware of the HIV status of the other and both aware that condoms had to be used during sex or the virus would be spread showed just a slightly less risk of transmitting HIV to the other partner than a couple with one infected partner in which the other partner was unaware of the infected partners status so that condoms were not used or not used reliably. In other words, although condoms should theoretically provide good protection, practically speaking, condoms do not even in couples with one infected partner and both knowing that without adequate protection during sex, the virus will be spread to the other. Sobering.

And, I know of no good studies regarding the “female condom”. But I can guess. The “female condom” is more difficult to place, will be less liked by the male partner and I would expect it would generally not be used. But when it is, I would not be surprised to find similar data showing little or no benefit.

No mention of the Indian government encouraging monogamy for men and women. No mention of eliminating brothels in which prostitutes ply there trade, apparently with the blessing of the Indian government. No mention of abstinence before marriage and one partner for life. (As an aside, “sex workers” and “clients”? Really. Does renaming the world’s oldest profession make it any less than what it is?)

I wonder if we will see a follow-up article in two or three years to see if the Indian government’s attempt at “…Fight[ing] AIDS with Female Condoms” works. I won’t hold my breath.

2 Responses to “India “Fights” AIDS (or not)”

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