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FIRST-PERSON: Promoting promiscuity

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–When government gives a product or service away, by default isn’t it encouraging the use of the free product or service?

For instance, didn’t the U.S. government encourage the purchase of newer more fuel efficient vehicles when it instituted the “Cash for Clunkers” program in 2009?

The program worked and thousands of citizens took advantage of the $3,500 to $4,500 credit the government provided and bought new cars.

The government provides an array of services at low or no cost, from food stamps to medical care. The purpose of offering the free or discounted programs is to encourage citizens to utilize them.

So, when the government provides prophylactics to young people, isn’t it by default encouraging them to engage in sex and, perhaps, even promiscuity?

While there are a variety of organizations that provide free condoms to young people throughout the United States, according to a recent Washington Post report, New York City and Washington D.C. are the only cities in America that have “large scale, publically financed condom distribution programs run through health departments.”

New York distributes 40 million condoms annually and Washington handed out 3.2 million last year, including 15,000 through public schools, The Post report revealed.

The D.C. distribution program has received complaints of late, reports the Post, especially among teenagers and college-age adults. It seems they are not pleased with the brand of condoms the city doles out.

Additionally, the young people don’t like obtaining the free prophylactics from school nurses, arguing it is “just like asking grandma” for a condom.

In response to the complaints, the Washington program is going to give-away a more well-know and expensive brand of condom. It will also train male teachers in how to distribute the no-cost prophylactics.

“I want everyone who is having a sexual relationship to do it with condoms,” Monica Sweeny, Washington’s assistant commissioner for HIV/AIDS prevention and control, said. “What they ask for, we will give them.”

The Post report indicated that free condoms are offered by the D.C. city government “at over 100 locations, including barbershops, liquor stores and youth centers.” The city is even “mailing up to 10 free condoms at a time to residents who request them online.”

Proponents of the free condom program in Washington D.C. would contend they are not encouraging sexual activity but rather they are promoting “safe sex” practices in an effort to curtail the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS.

However, the Washington program does not seem to be very effective.

According to a report by The Washington Post in March 2009, a study by the city of D.C. found that approximately 3 percent of its residents have HIV or AIDS, which constitutes a 22 percent increase from 2006.

The 3 percent figure of HIV/AIDS infections “far surpasses the 1 percent threshold that constitutes a ‘generalized and severe’ epidemic,” The Post reported.

The New York program does not fare much better than the D.C. program.

According to the website of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, “New York City has the highest AIDS case rate in the country, with more AIDS cases than Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and Washington, D.C. combined” An estimated 2.5 percent of New Yorkers are infected with the disease.

Two cities that employ perhaps the most aggressive condom distribution programs in American have some of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the United States. How can that be?

First of all, condoms do not provide perfect protection from STDs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website, “Consistent and correct use of male latex condoms can reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of STD transmission.”

A July 2001 report from the National Institutes of Health titled “Scientific Evidence of Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention” concluded that consistent and correct condom use decreased the risk of HIV/AIDS by 85 percent.

Some might argue that an 85 percent rate of effectiveness is pretty good. However, when you consider that in Russian roulette a person has an 83.4 percent of a gun firing an empty chamber, the argument ends.

No one encourages Russian roulette, because even if the odds of getting a bullet are relatively low, the stakes are simply too high. The same is especially true when applied to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

The NIH study also concluded that scientific evidence does not support condom use as a means to prevent infections of Herpes, Chlamydia, Trichomoniasis, Chancroid, Syphilis or HPV.

The NIH report did find that there is evidence for protection from the STD Gonorrhea for men, but not for women.

Second, when Washington, D.C., and New York give condoms away they are by default encouraging people — including and perhaps especially teenagers — to engage in sex.

The more promiscuous a person is, the more likely they are to contract an STD even if they use a condom “consistently and correctly.” When government provides free condoms to teenagers, as well as to the population at large, it is by default encouraging them to engage in sex.

With the distribution of prophylactics at no cost, the government also implies the condoms will ensure “safe-sex” which, according to the 2000 NIH study, is simply not true.

While the government giving away of condoms in Washington, D.C., and New York City may make their sexually promiscuous citizens happy, it does not make them safe from STDs — especially HIV/AIDS. And isn’t one of government’s main functions to protect its citizens from real threats to their health and well-being?
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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  • Kelly Boggs