From Mr Chris Mason Sir, I must take issue with Elizabeth Price of Catholics for a Changing Church who suggests that condoms be used to protect against HIV/AIDS and her quote from the book on HIV prevention edited by James F Keenan SJ. Condoms in fact have a notoriously high failure rate as regards pregnancy and an even higher failure rate against HIV/AIDS.
Indeed, condoms have up to a 30 per cent failure rate resulting in pregnancy and a 52 per cent burst/slip-off rate as reported by the British Journal and Daily Planning, BJFP,I 990. This report quotes the results of a survey that, over a period of only three months, 52 per cent of respondents had experienced a condom either burst or fall-off during use. This means that over a period of a year condom safety is a disaster and their promotion could be a major contributory factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Using the "pregnancy rate" to calculate for failed condoms is not an indication of the actual "overall failure rate" of condoms because women cannot conceive on every day of the month.
Since women can only conceive during a quarter of her cycle, pregnancy rates cannot be used as an indicator for the "overall failure rate" of condoms.
In other words condoms fail at a rate far greater than that recorded by the number of pregnancies and this has major implications conquering the transmission of STDs in general and H1V/AIDS in particular.
For example, the British Journal of Family Planning reports figures for pregnancy from failed condoms at rate of 24 per cent. According to the Lancet, during the course of a year condoms have a 13-15 per cent failure rate, and a much higher failure rate for teenagers. It is reasonable to assume that condoms "fail" outside the fertile time, the fertile time being only one quarter of the whole cycle. It is therefore also reasonable to accept that "condom failure rates" calculated on the pregnancy rate to be four times the pregnancy rate. This gives a figure for teenagers of 20 per cent x 4 = 80 per cent condom failure rate, but, please note, this is still only based on pregnancy rates alone and takes no account of the occurrence of condom failure when failure cannot result in pregnancy as highlighted above. There can also be confusion over the understanding of the term "failure rate" because technically "failure rate", in relationship to contraception, means the pregnancy rate, or rather, the number of pregnancies to 100 women over a period of one year and does not refer to any other type of failure which does not result in pregnancy. Again, condom failures resulting in pregnancy but ending in surgical or chemical abortion may well be absent from condom failure figures.
As for protection against HIV/AIDS, CM Roland Ph.D. for the US Naval Research Lab, Washington, stated about the distribution of condorns,"if the intent is to reduce the spread of the disease (HIV/AIDS), their advice is illconceived in the extreme. The high failure rate of condoms in the prevention of pregnancy alone argues against their use for a fatal disease."
However, because the AIDS virus is 450 times smaller than sperm, the effectiveness of condoms for AIDS prevention is actually much worse than for contraception.
"It is well established that latex rubber contains inherent flaws that are at least 50 times larger than the AIDS virus. This has been demonstrated both by electron microscopy and fracture mechanics analyses. inherent – means the flaws are naturally occurring, their existence is unrelated to the details of the processing, manufacturing and handling of the material. The problem with latex rubber is compounded by the fact that FDA tests cannot detect flaws even 100 times larger than the AIDS virus. The method for assessing leakage (ASTM Standard D3492) is blind to leakage volumes of less than one microlitre; yet this quantity of seminal fluid from an AIDSinfected individual has been found to contain as many as 100,000 HIV particles.
As the editor of the American Chemical Society's journal devoted to the science and technology of rubber and a research scientist in the field, I find absurd the notion that condoms allow one to safely engage in sexual relations with HIV carriers. Their proposition for that purpose is dangerous and. irresponsible.
I believe that men and women throughout the world must be told of the serious flaws in condoms and latex structure and consequently what they are letting themselves in for when using a condom while engaging in sexual intercourse with someone infected with HIV/AIDS. To mislead people around the world into using a product, the overall failure rate of which international development organisations refuse to accept, could be seen as a violation of human rights, as grossly misleading, and as a lack of reproductive health information needed for people to give consent to the use of a so called "health product".
Yours faithfUlly, CHRIS MASON Cheltenham