Pounding the Pope

Nwachukwu Egbunike

It’s not easy breaking the ink barren flu that had quarantined me for a full month. Within this period of my ‘writers illness’, a theme was vociferously dissected by the international media, who apparently where ‘scandalised’ about Benedict XVI’s comment on his visit to Africa that “the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem”.

Obinna and Nwachukwu, after the Papal Mass in Cameroon

Obinna and Nwachukwu, after the Papal Mass in Cameroon

For starters, I was in Cameroon for the papal visit and his statement on condoms was a non-issue. On the contrary Cameroonians were grateful to Benedict for telling the truth to power. His admonition to Christians to speak out against “corruption and abuses of power” was a hit, precipitating a domino effect. Curiously enough, this was hardly reported by most foreign media. Perhaps threatened by Benedict’s nerve to contest their ‘infallibility’ in setting global agenda for HIV/AIDS, the media became hysterical.

This condescending attitude was not lost on most of us in the news business. This is not the first, nor will it be the last time that Africa will be viewed from the biased prism of a childish continent. The issue of condoms and the curtailing of transmission of HIV/AIDS have always been controversial. Remarkably there are two schools of thoughts. Some elitists Africans puppets, who have been milking most of these foreign agencies, give the impression that all we need is condoms. On the other hand, the less vocal majority, know that the African world view is essentially polygamous. Thus any intervention that does not put this into account is bound to fail. That is why; condoms will not solve the AIDS palaver, rather it will only aggravate it. Condom advocacy is like trying to quench a fire with petrol.

Although tonnes of scientific evidence exist to disprove the fallacy of condoms, yet the Pope was severely pounded for saying just that. In AIDS: Let’s Face Fact I argued as follows:

Is safe sex, as safe as the advocates insist that it is? Any student of virology knows that the Human Immune Virus (HIV) is a retrovirus, with a diameter of 80-100mm (that is 0.1 microns). Condoms on the other hand have in-built voids, with a diameter of about 5 microns. As if that were not enough, condom manufacturers allow 0.4 per cent of any given batch of condom to be defective before a recall is ordered….this does not put into consideration the friction that is associated with coitus and the attendant risks of breakage, which is most common.

This was five years ago, perhaps these facts are already stale? Michael Cook does not think so. In “African AIDS: the Facts that Demolish the Myths”, he cited more than five academic papers published in top-rated medical journals, including the prestigious Lancent, which hold similar views.

Since Benedict was right, why the pounding? The Daily Trust in her editorial* thinks that the criticism was orchestrated by some “vested interests” in the pharmaceutical industry involved in the “marketing and sale of condoms and anti-retroviral drugs” that also exercise tremendous influence in the “control of the world means of mass communication.” I am also convinced that behind this hypocritical tempest, lies a deep seated hatred for the Church and Benedict’s statement was just an excuse to bounce on the institution he represents.

Crying more than the bereaved, the West pretends to love us more than we love ourselves. “As an African… it is my nephews and nieces that are in danger of dying of HIV/AIDS”. Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja continues, “Let no one ever suggest that they are more concerned about them than I am”. It’s the same Church that Benedict represents that have been on the forefront of the management of HIV/AIDS in the rural areas where the prevalence rate is much higher and help more needed. “Go to any remote corner of sub-Saharan Africa and, if you find anyone there caring for these people, it will be missionaries, religious brothers and sisters and dedicated lay people” opines Martyn Darkard.

It is obvious that Benedict personal statement neither contradicts faith nor science. Consequently the Papal pounding is skanky, unprofessional and irresponsible. Asides it portrays an arrogant ignorance of the developmental needs of the continent by the Western media who pretend to be the ‘infallible’ voice of the world. A bit of counsel, Africans may be poor but not dumb, and we know who our true friends are.

*Daily Trust Editorial (2009), “On the Side of the Pope” Daily Trust, March 30, Vol 21, No 36.


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