A dangerous belief that people can be protected from sexual promiscuity or drug use.
Advocates of ‘condom compassion’ (harm reducers) believe that ‘playing with fire’ can be made safe. They believe that it is better to protect people from the consequences of their behaviours than to try and change those behaviours.
Opponents of ‘condom compassion’ (harm avoiders) believe that dangerous behaviours can never be safe and are best avoided completely. They worry that 'condom compassion' only encourages more dangerous behaviour. They point to the increased use of cannabis since Labour's liberalisation of the law, and rising rates of sexually-transmitted infection.
Advocates of harm avoidance policies believe that people can be persuaded, cajoled or frightened into changing their behaviours. Behaviour change is the only way of being 100% safe from, for example, sexually-transmitted diseases or drug addiction. Behaviour change is a kind of social vaccine against social problems. Here, in the British Medical Journal, Dr Trevor Stammers makes the case for abstinence education.
Condoms and clean needles
Condoms and clean needles are the leading tools of harm reducers. But their tools place users in a game of Russian roulette. Clean needles can reduce the risks facing an addict but they do nothing to combat the devastating long-term effects of drug use. A failed condom can expose a promiscuous teenager to a sexually-transmitted infection or unexpected pregnancy. Condoms don’t deliver ‘safe sex’ for people – only ‘safER sex’. That fact has been proven by an analysis in the Cochrane Review which puts condom failure at 20% and a UNAIDS report which put failure rates at 10%. Protection rates decline further, of course, when sexual promiscuity is mixed with alcohol and drug use.
Parents want their children steered away from dangerous behaviours
In a devastating rejection of ‘condom compassion’, a YouGov opinion poll for The Centre for Social Justice found that nearly 90% of Britons believed that parents should help their children to avoid rather than minimise exposure to cigarettes, drugs and sex. But British politicians are constantly placing children in harm’s way by pretending that their life choices can be almost risk-free.
The battle against HIV/AIDS – particularly in Africa - is providing the most prominent trial of ‘condom compassion’ versus ‘harm avoidance’ policies. The African nation with the most successful record against HIV/AIDS is Uganda. Uganda has developed the ‘ABC’ approach to this deadly disease. ‘ABC’ promotes:
(A) Abstaining from sex until marriage;
(B) Being faithful to your partner; and
(C) Condoms, as a last resort, if abstinence and being faithful are not possible.
Uganda proves that behaviours can change and condoms are not reliable. Dr Edward Green (of the Harvard Centre for Population and Development Studies) has found that a reduction in the number of sexual partners was the biggest contributor to Uganda’s success in reducing HIV infection rates from 15% to 5%.
Also see Sleeping With The Enemy: The Ethics Of Harm Reduction Programmes by Chris Richards, for the Christian Medical Fellowship.