Thursday, March 26, 2009

"The pope is correct"

This statement was made not by a Catholic, but by an agnostic Dr. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and author of five books and over 250 peer-reviewed articles. The Harvard expert on AIDS prevention was responding to Pope Benedict XVI's statement that "One cannot overcome the problem [of AIDS] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem." The Pope has received knee-jerk criticism from closed-minded trendies around the world for his comments.

Dr. Green added:

". . . the best evidence we have supports the pope's comments.

. . . There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded 'Demographic Health Surveys,' between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction 'technology' such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by 'compensating' or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology."

Dr. Edward C. Green (Senior Research Scientist, Harvard School of Public Health and Center for Population and Development Studies, Harvard University)

To read Dr. Green's full interview click here.

Some of Dr. Green's other publications include observations such as:

"But until donors and other decision makers in AIDS programs look carefully and with an open mind at the evidence for the impact of behavior changes other than contraceptives, drugs, and medical devices, the vast majority of prevention funds will continue to go only to these risk reduction interventions" (Edward C. Green. Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries 2003).

In this book Green reveals that instead of the exaggerated aims at using medical solutions funded by major donors which have had little impact in Africa, the

"relatively simple, low-cost behavioral change programs - stressing increased monogamy and delayed sexual activity for young people - have made the greatest headway in fighting or preventing the disease's spread. Ugandans pioneered these simple, sustainable interventions and achieved significant results . . . Rather than pay for clinics, gadgets and medical procedures. In a New York Times interview, Green cited evidence that "partner reduction," promoted as mutual faithfulness, is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of AIDS."

Edward C. Green. Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries, 2003).

In a publication where Green emphasizes sexual behavior change, rather than frivolous condom distribution, he speculates about groups that overlook behavior change as a proven prevention method:

"To summarize, we propose the hypothesis that Americans working in global AIDS tend to possess an ideology regarding sexual behavior that is influenced by the sexual revolution of the 1960s, gay liberation, and secularism" (Fear Arousal, Sexual Behavior Change and AIDS Prevention p. 257).

Dr. Green is not alone in his assessment of condoms and African AIDS prevention. According to one of the world's leading medical journals, The Lancet, author James Shelton, of the US Agency for International Development, stated in an article that one of the ten misconceptions about the fight against AIDS is that condoms are the solution:

". . . condoms alone have limited impact in generalised epidemics"

whereas controlling behavior produces measurable results:

"reductions in HIV incidence in Kenya and eastern Zimbabwe were accompanied by large drops in multiple partners . . . Truthfully, our priority must be on the key driver of generalised epidemics—concurrent partnerships." (Shelton, James D. 2007. Ten myths and one truth about generalised HIV epidemics. The Lancet. December 1, 2007. pp 1809-1811).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Review: The Domestic Church - Room by Room

Although I am a Roman Catholic father and not a mother, which this book is written for, I am preparing this review as its usefulness to the home, to which the father is the head and must ensure his household has the tools and resources to make his household a 'domestic church'. Authored by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle, The Domestic Church - Room by Room offers the Catholic mother a hands-on way to sanctify, what some may refer to as, the daily grind of life. With references to Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the words of Christ, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, St. Therese of Lisieux (a personal favorite of mine) and others, Donna brings spiritual meaning and strength to the mother longing for a deeper understanding of her vocation. Most striking is the author's choice of referencing our Blessed Mother in Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model of motherhood.

In the book, the author discloses that this mother's study guide works very well in a group setting for mothers, mothers-to-be, and engaged women. However, I can see where it can also work well in a private spiritual retreat. Since silent time away from the children isn't always possible and since many of us parents including myself, rely also on camaraderie for support, a group study of 3 or more would be ideal. Nevertheless, this study guide shouldn't be overlooked just because other mom's weren't available. There is a "How to Use This Study Guide" section in the beginning which provides valuable recommendations for the group setting which can be easily modified for private use.

Each chapter features room for notes that the reader can write in the answer to specific questions, ideas, or other notes that the author presents. This feature is valuable in that studies reveal that we are more likely to accomplish a task if we have first written it down for ourselves. There isn't a more important task in the world than parenting. This book leaves plenty of opportunities to hand-write your personal thoughts, goals, and ideas to give us that additional motivation.

The author emphasizes the husband's participation in the home early in the book. Chapter 2 notes that a kingdom divided itself cannot stand. This chapter offers practical direction, without micromanaging our homes, in communication, problem solving, spirituality, and more. Again there is room for notes so the goals and direction are ultimately the reader's not the author's.

This book will provoke personal challenge, generosity, and a changing of one's old habits to sow more fulfilling seeds of personal and marital growth. This book is recommended to every couple with or without children who seek to deepen their marriage and who seek climbing a higher rung of the ladder to holiness in our own 'domestic churches'.

This review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Domestic Church - Room by Room.