HOW SAFE ARE MALE CONDOMS?


A naive looking man in his late twenties, who claimed to be a Christian requested to see me for counselling, and I obliged him. Sitting opposite me, he confessed to having had casual sex with several girls. One of the ladies had missed her period by a week, and he was scared that beyond pregnancy, he might have even picked up HIV although he had used condoms in every act of indiscriminate sexual intercourse. As a medical doctor, I advised that he go for blood tests as that was the only way he could ascertain his health status. I also counselled him, but I wondered how someone could profess Christ and still be engaging in immoral practices.

The Facts:

Condoms are contraceptive or prophylactic sheath worn around the penis during sexual intercourse. Condoms are about the oldest form of contraceptives used men. They go by various amusing street names like; “raincoat”, “rubbers”, “bulletproof”. They are currently made from latex rubber and originally intended for birth control. With the rising tide of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) especially Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), condoms have become well-liked for the seeming protection they offer and because they are easy to use and do not require medical supervision. Moreover, condom use virtually has no side effect. But just how safe and efficient are they?

Reports and statistics on the efficiency of condoms are widely dependent on who is giving the verdict. You must remember that condom production is big business and many studies are tailored to make findings that are pleasing to the sponsors. He who pays the piper dictates the tune. According to the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention, consistent and correct use of the male latex condom reduces the risk of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and (HIV) transmission. However, condom use cannot provide absolute protection against any STD. The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of STDs are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. Thus, the effectiveness of condoms as protection against diseases are largely user dependent, and come to think of it – correct usage may only be obtained with the experience of usage! Admittedly, when condoms are used correctly with each act of intercourse, laboratory tests have shown that they are probably 98% effective in preventing pregnancy and STDs. 

The Myth:

Unprotected sex is often defined as sexual intercourse without a condom, and is termed “unsafe sex”. There is almost a traditional belief that condom use prevents STDs, such as gonorrhoea, herpes, chlamydia causing diseases, hepatitis B and even AIDS. But are condoms a near guarantee of safe sex? To answer this question in a bold affirmative way would be a myth and misleading. With younger and inexperienced users, the failure rate is higher. Again, according to the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, male condoms may not cover all infected areas or regions that could become infected. Thus, they are likely to provide greater protection against STDs that are transmitted only by genital fluids (STDs such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and HIV infection) than against infections that are transmitted primarily by skin-to-skin contact, which may or may not infect areas covered by a condom (STDs such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus [HPV] infection, syphilis, and chancroid). 

The Church and Condoms:

Contraception has always been a subject of controversy amongst Christians. Many argue that God is against it in any form citing the example of Onan in Genesis 38, and rather advocate natural family planning based on the woman’s menstrual cycle. Others argue that it was Onan’s intention that displeased God. Besides, natural family planning is easier said than done. As a preacher said, “Marriage is honourable in all and the bed undefiled…” Hebrews 13:4”. As long as you’re married, whatever you do in bed is fine. If it doesn’t bother husband and wife, why should it bother me?

I recall that in my fourth year in Medical School, I was part of a donor-driven peer counselling workshop, where we were taught about HIV, contraception and self-esteem. The workshop was no problem for me, but after two weeks, we were given packs of condoms to sell to undergraduates at subsidised rates. That, I had a problem with because I couldn’t use this tongue that goes on evangelism to advertise a condom. I just couldn’t. Maybe you can. I guess it’s largely an issue of consecration. We are all headed in different directions. It’s like asking if a Christian should work in a brewery. I’d rather not! But then that’s me. Let every man be fully persuaded in his mind (Romans 14:5); each man is the Lord’s servant. That way you can pay tithes from condom production or sales out of a good conscience.

Condom use brings us to the issue of casual sex amongst single Christians. An unmarried child of God should have no business with using or promoting the use of condoms to fellow single brethren. Hey! Where’s the place of self-control? (Galatians 5:23) Even the Federal Ministry of Health is preaching abstinence – “Zip up!” Not- use condoms! The virus is not the issue here. It’s love – the love God has for us. You’re breaking God’s heart, my dear, if you have premarital sex; a rubber sheath wouldn’t change that.

 

Dr. Donald Oboh resides in the UK. He is a director with His Stripes Limited, London, England.  

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