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The Safe Sex Myth

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Whether one is speaking to a public school board or the grocery clerk in the checkout line, it is important to learn the facts and speak them clearly in order to debunk the safe sex myth. The current approach is akin to applying a bandage to a cancerous growth. Tolerance of or advocacy for condoms is not a good solution for pragmatic reasons as well for religious and moral reasons. When looking at sex outside of marriage, one must consider pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, and emotional and spiritual consequences. It is unknown how well condoms truly work as a preventive measure.[1] For some of the most damaging sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia and human papilloma virus, condoms have no preventive effect. It is well known that the typical rate of pregnancy prevention for condoms for all U.S. women is 84%.[2] Concretely, that means that 16 out of 100 women will experience a pregnancy when using a condom for "protection." It is well known that teens experience even higher pregnancy rates. Why would one expect greater success with respect to disease prevention when disease-carrying parasites, viruses, bacteria, and the like are considerably smaller than the sperm cell? For example, when comparing the sperm cell to the HIV virus, it is a similar ratio of a football field to a football.

But what about HIV/AIDS? There are clearly conflicting reports and the issues are complex for sure. If condoms work, will people use them consistently and properly? Even when the "partner" knew the other was HIV infected, apparently condoms have not been used with the degree of frequency that is advocated. One study found 44% of the women "never used" or "not always" used the condom [3] and another study found that 85% of the women "never," "rarely," or "sometimes" used a condom.[4] Only 15% of couples "always" used a condom, even when they knew one partner had AIDS. These data were based on so-called steady partners or even married couples -- adults with presumably strong emotional attachments to one another.

There is concern about the product quality. One study found that 14.6% of condoms either broke or slipped off during intercourse or when withdrawing the penis. This finding led the authors to conclude, "...these rates indicate a sobering level of exposure to the risks of pregnancy and of infection with HIV or with other STDs, even among those who consistently use condoms."[5] In addition, if one looks at the practice of anal intercourse, even secular health workers recognize that condoms are worthless with this practice. It is easier to teach people to be chaste than to teach them to use condoms well.[6] As mentioned in the footnotes cited, the efficacy for condom prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission is in serious dispute.

What about the new treatments for HIV/AIDS? Isn't it no longer a life-threatening disease? Protease inhibitors are a new class of anti-HIV drugs which work by blocking a part of HIV called protease. Protease inhibitors have stopped and even reversed the amount of virus in the blood and increased the T4 cells counts. The dosage and schedule for taking the protease inhibitors is critical and protease inhibitors can affect the absorption of other medications. All and all, while its effects are good news for HIV-infected persons, it is not a cure. Studies show these effects wear off in time. If a person is infected by someone who has taken protease inhibitors, the protease inhibitor treatment may not be effective for this person. Some people are unable to tolerate protease inhibitors. It is encouraging that protease inhibitors have helped people live longer and get fewer opportunistic diseases. People need to know that HIV/AIDS remains a deadly disease.

The emotional and spiritual consequences should not be dismissed. Sexually active girls are 6.3 times more likely to commit suicide than their virgin peers. They are also more likely to feel lonely, upset, and have sleeping difficulties. Girls are more vulnerable to regret since they are more likely to think of sex as a way to show they care.[7]

The emotional effects boys experience have been more difficult to quantify as they typically will cover up or be unaware of their feelings. Yet young men speak about regret over the pain they caused a girl or for being responsible for an abortion or the feeling of emptiness they experience with teen sex. It is undocumented to our knowledge, but it is our belief that the increase in violence toward women by their current or ex-boyfriends is related to the jealousy and the subsequent rage the men experience once a sexual relationship has occurred and is either in jeopardy or severed. Contraception does not protect for a wounded heart.

Regret, loneliness, and loss of respect are all by products of these hollow relationships. Contrast this sadness with what occurs when young people embrace abstinence as a positive force in their lives: true friendship and respect for the opposite sex. With the practice of abstinence people gain freedom to pursue their goals as they recognize that sexual intercourse speaks about love.


[1] The Medical Institute for Sexual Health Sexual Health Update, periodic annotated newsletters reviewing the relevant medical data discussing the ineffectiveness of condoms to prevent the transmission of human papilloma virus and chlamydia trachomatis as well as the questionable efficacy of condoms in preventing HIV/AIDS. See in particular vol. 3, no. 3 (Fall 1995), and vol. 2., no. 2 (April 1994).

[2] Mosher, W., et al, "Understanding U.S. Fertility Continuity and Change in the National Survey of Family Growth, 1988-1995," Family Planning Perspectives, Jan/Feb. 1996.

[3] Saracco, A., et al, "Man-to-Woman Sexual Transmission of HIV: Longitudinal Study of 343 Steady Partners of Infected Men," Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 1993.

[4] Guimaraes, M., et al, "HIV Infection among Female Partners of Seropositive Men in Brazil," American Journal of Epidemiology, 1995. Furthermore, this study found that of those who used a condom consistently 23% of the women converted to HIV positive within the year. Those who rarely/never used a condom and used oral contraceptives experienced a 55% seroconversion rate whereas those who never used a condom and did not use oral contraceptives experienced a 37% seroconversion rate. Data suggests that women using oral contraceptives have an increased risk factor for contracting HIV/AIDS (the actual reason is not fully understood because of the complexity of sexual behavior).

[5] Trussel, J., et al, "Condom Slippage and Breakage Rates," Family Planning Perspectives, Jan/Feb. 1992.

[6] Cataldo, P.J., "Realism in AIDS Education," Ethics & Medics, May 1992.

[7] Lickona, T., American Educator, "The Neglected Heart," Summer 1994.

Copyright 2002 FACTS This article can be found on the FACTS website (link closed). Reprinted with permission.

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Copyright 2001-2018 OrthodoxyToday.org. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article is subject to the policy of the individual copyright holder. See OrthodoxyToday.org for details.

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