I support the use of condoms but do not agree they are l00% safe
Stabroek News
January 23, 2002

Dear Editor,

"Four legs good! Two legs bad!" - a sound bite from "Animal Farm".

I did not realise, as I should have, that there was a condom side and an abstinence side, and that you could not see the value of both. Even when I write abstinence' I am using language which is not my own.

There is some itchiness in the air. Let me deal with mine first. "Condoms are 100 per cent safe" makes me itchy. The issue I have been following up is not condoms but "Condoms used consistently and correctly prevent the transmission of HIV 100 per cent." The attitude is "Don't you agree?" If you don't, you are against condoms!

I agreed with "Abstinence is the number one prevention. Condoms are not 100 percent safe". So I am seen by some as belonging to the anti condom party.

When I write something which seems to be misread, I go first to the writer, myself, not the readers. I went back and read what I wrote and cannot find anything saying don't use condoms.' What I found in our letter is advice that sex partners are safer with than without it but not absolutely safe.

This is not toeing the line.

Do I know any country which has reduced the rate of infection without condoms I have been asked. No, I don't and I don't think there is any such country. But I also know that wherever the rate has been reduced, it is also partly due to changed treatment of the place of sex in life, or change of behaviour. Religious commandments are useful for many, but they alone are not enough. The person must act, or not act, from conviction, conscience.

Abstinence is number one, but not 100 per cent either. It is effective while it lasts. But Dr Joyce Elders, a former Surgeon General of the USA remarked to some people opposed to any use of condoms, "Restraint can also break down."

My own strongest concern in all this is with those of my own sex who see women as being "made for men" and not for themselves. Most rapes, in my opinion, come from that mindset, which sees women as pleasure vessels, mainly. Conditions of respect going along with that pleasure do not matter.

Another thing which has come into the literature from somewhere is the use of "We made love" to mean, "We had sex." I tell young people that having sex is not making love. There may be no love at all in it. Yet, sex can take place in a love relationship.

What I say to young people may help to make my position clear.

First, I and others work in a group of young people on HIV. Those young people obtain and distribute condoms. We have very little, if any, disagreement on person sexual behaviour. But they want to save their generation from the pestilence now.

My message to young people is, in brief, not to rush sex; that they will not get ill if they don't have sex; that in fact, early sex can lead to later problems; that they should not sample people, or allow themselves to be sampled; that there is no love without respect; that if they are sexually active, they should reduce the risk by using condoms.

And what of our own children?

I discuss these matters with them freely. I advise our married son to regard other women as sisters and nothing to do with him. I advise our unmarried son about respect for women and not seeing them as fun; to use a condom if he is to have sex.

He must have heard of N9, because he once argued with me that condoms increase risk. Our daughter, who is the last, will not bless me for saying that she is probably the strongest of us. I often ask her brothers to seek her advice. She supports the use of condoms.

With my students, whose environment I know to some extent, I raise many of these matters and we discuss them in a very respectful way. I have also invited persons to speak with my class on teenage health matters.

Yours faithfully,

Eusi Kwayana