In February this year our dear President and his deputy gave us the shock of our lives by launching the ‘all-in-all’ HIV/AIDS campaign that is meant to issue children as young as nine with condoms to stop the new HIV infections that are apparently spiraling among this age bracket (9-14 years).
Several Kenyans went on the rampage on social media, and rightly so, to express their views about the absurdity of such a directive, with some proclaiming the move as a tell-tale sign of the apocalypse. It was a real earthquake especially coming from a President who professes the Catholic faith (Catholic doctrine forbids the promotion of all manner of artificial means of family planning, condoms or otherwise, under the pain of anathema).
This directive could well mean that your nine-year old will be receiving a pack of condoms as part of his welcome-back-to-school kit. The thought itself scares the living daylights out of me. My heart bleeds for future generations. Correct me if am wrong, but does a nine-year old know anything about sex? Isn’t he or she supposed to be too busy playing kati, or bano, or brikicho, or three sticks, or one touch (I could go on and on)?
If you are going to issue a nine-year old with condoms, you might as well, by all means, issue them with a gun while you’re at it so that they can ask, “Dad, what does this button do?” and, twaff, let them blow their brains off. Fighting HIV with condoms is akin to extinguishing fire with petrol. We should be wise and look for alternative ways of fighting this scourge such as promoting behavior change. The USA has promoted condom and contraception-centered sexuality education in schools across the entire nation with increased availability of condoms and contraception to teens for nearly four decades.
What has the effect of such prolonged condom use been? The answer is teens in the USA now face a growing three-part epidemic of STIs, teen pregnancy and depression. According to Michelle Cretella, the Vice-President of the American College of Pediatricians, who chairs the College’s Committee on Adolescent Sexuality, sexually active adolescents and young adults under age 25 account for 50 percent of the 19 million new cases of STIs annually in the US. One in five Americans over age 12 is infected with genital herpes, and one in four sexually active girls over age 13 is infected with at least one STI. Furthermore, one in 13 high school girls becomes pregnant each year in America.
Furthermore, doctors and scientists know that sexual activity releases chemicals in the brain that create emotional bonds between the partners. In other words it seems there is a chemical which acts like super glue that is released in both partners during sexual activity. Breaking such bonds can be catastrophic and could make it harder to bond with someone in the future. It is therefore clear as crystal that sexual abstinence is the only way to guarantee optimal and mental health for adolescents. I am certain that Kenyan parents would not want their children to be emotional wrecks, develop low self-esteem and increase their risk of committing suicide.
There is another reason why availability of condoms will not stop the spread of HIV. It is known as the phenomenon of risk compensation. This is a theory of behavior which observes that people behave less cautiously in situations in which they feel more protected. This means that if you give people condoms they are emboldened to take more risks. It acts as a catalyst to promiscuous behavior.
The situation would be far much worse if you give it to an age group that is not capable of forming rational decisions since the frontal cortex of the brain which is responsible for functioning skills is not yet fully developed. Some of the counsel given to people living with AIDS is “try not to spread it” that is, live abstinence.
But before they got the disease they were told “you guy, go forth and sow your royal oats, just remember the c-word.” If self-control is not achieved before contracting HIV it is often impossible afterwards. In fact the victims tend to go on a revenge mission infecting as many people as they can since, they argue, they were also unfairly infected.
The condom campaign has never succeeded anywhere in stopping the spread of HIV and Kenya will not be the first country. There are countries that have contained this scourge but it was because they held campaigns that promoted abstinence and fidelity, not condoms and premarital sex.
In early 2011, the journal PLoS Medicine published a report about the prevalence of AIDS in Zimbabwe. Over the 10 years to 2007 HIV prevalence was halved. The condom brigade might rejoice over such a success but lo and behold! It is not condoms that cut HIV adult prevalence in Zimbabwe from 27 percent to 16 percent, but changes in behavior, mainly reductions in extramarital, commercial and casual sexual relations. With the ‘all-in-all’ campaign premarital sex is being promoted under the guise of stopping the spread of HIV among adolescents.
I came across a very interesting statistic about the spread of AIDS in Asia. The two countries in contention were Thailand and The Philippines. Apparently these two countries started out with the same number of AIDS infections.
In the late 1980s, Thailand and Philippines had 112 and 135 HIV/AIDS cases respectively. In 2003 the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Thailand had skyrocketed to 750,000 while the number in Philippines remained low at 1,935 cases. Factor in that the population of Philippines grew to more than 30 percent more than that of Thailand’s in the same period.
Thailand currently ranks as the country with the highest HIV prevalence in Asia. Why the big contrast? Apparently in the early 1990s, the Thailand government enforced a campaign on 100% condom use in its booming commercial sex industry while the Philippines maintained a very low rate of condom use with the Church and government remaining firm in their opposition to condoms.
Granted, persistent and perfect condom use could reduce the risk of HIV transmission but it is a well-documented fact that condoms are not fool proof when it comes to HIV. However, the human will is fickle and cannot be trusted to make the right decision 100% of the time, especially when it is required to do so in the throes of passion. Add to that the fact that, biologically, a nine-year old does not possess the necessary threshold of right decision-making especially with regard to situations that could alter the course of their entire life.
The result is a ballooning increase in the number of HIV cases. Learn from Thailand; our youth should instead be protected from being initiated into pre-marital sex which is a major reason for the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
A behavior change program should be implemented for those already initiated, and programs on character formation and fidelity to one’s spouse can be incorporated in the primary school and high school curricula. This will work effectively because human beings, despite the external stimuli, have a reason and a will and, certainly, a capability to say ‘no.’
I can assure you there is no technology, latex or otherwise, that will ever send HIV/AIDS into oblivion. Only a solution that speaks to the reason and the will can bring the scourge to an end.
The ‘all-in-all’ campaign is probably the most diabolical campaign that has been unleashed on the Kenyan scene yet. It paints a grim picture on our children’s future. It threatens to plunge our society into chaos. It plans to bring up a crop of men who cannot handle responsibility or carry out any meaningful enterprise. It will be a cold day in hell if such a campaign is ever enforced. Our future Kenya deserves better.
Image Credits: Daily Nation