Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Only what the media want us to know

On March 17, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI opined that condom distribution in Africa was not the total solution to the scourge of HIV/AIDS, in fact, might worsen it. Neither the Toronto Star nor The Globe and Mail reported his reasons, preferring to adopt their usual stance of mocking anyone, especially a religious person, who disagrees with them. Neither newspaper printed letters critical of their stand. Neither printed letters detailing the reasons for the statement. Neither wants its readers to have the whole story to judge for themselves. These are the same people who proclaim the public's right to know, that is, to know only what they want readers to know.

Unpublished letter to The Globe and Mail:

Rather than taking the simplistic approach (as in today's cartoon) to the debate over condom use and HIV/AIDS, The Globe owes its readers the complete story.

Edward C. Green is the director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. In claiming the condom distribution exacerbates the AIDS problem, Green states, "The Pope is correct, or put it another way, the best evidence we have supports the Pope's comments."

Protestant minister Martin Ssempa of Uganda's abstinence and faithfulness anti-AIDS programs: "Condoms have not reduced HIV-AIDS anywhere in the world... Higher condom (use) across Africa has resulted in higher HIV... In countries where the Catholic Church is strong, there is lower HIV than places where the Catholic Church is not."

Sam L. Ruteikara, co-chair of Uganda's AIDS prevention Committee: "Profiteering has trumped prevention...AIDS is no longer a disease. It has become a multibillion-dollar industry. Meanwhile, effective HIV prevention methods, such as urging Africans to stick to one partner, don't qualify for lucrative universal-access status. Our wisdom about our own culture is ignored."

Unpublished letter to the Toronto Star:

Re Papal blind spot on HIV, editorial, Mar. 19

There is much to agree with in this editorial, but it paints a lopsided picture. While the debate over condom use in Africa rages in the Western media, mostly at the expense of the Catholic Church, these same media make scant mention of Catholic work combating the HIV/AIDS scourge.

The Church is the largest single contributor to the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. One out of every four sufferers in the world benefits from Catholic initiatives, hospitals and clinics.

If the easy availability of condoms has not controlled HIV/AIDS in Canada, how can it do so in the Third World? Condoms may or may not be a quick fix for Africans, but experience indicated the long-term solution lies elsewhere.

We must also be wary of manufacturers, advertisers, distributors, foundations and other "charitable" organizations which have financial interests in the promotion of certain products.

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