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by mike mcclellan

Condoms have been an issue with me for sometime. I've been a foster parent for nearly 25 years. My placements are males, usually 14 years old and up. They are usually long term which means they may be here until they're 18 (or longer) and they're usually kids who are difficult to place because of their ages and circumstances.

Most of these kids didn't arrive at my home as virgins. Nearly all of them are sexually active. Unfortunately, usually the proper values weren't instilled as they should have been when these guys were still very young and impressionable. Add to that, today's permissive, promiscuous society and an overabundance of hormones and the result is a given. These kids are GOING to have sex!

I do not condone it. But I have to face it. Its reality. AIDS is a horrible, deadly disease. Herpes, genital warts and the "lesser" STDs are very dangerous and also sometimes deadly. There are the unwanted pregnancies followed by abortions on mothers (who are babies themselves) with babies who can't support them or care for them properly. The babies come into the world in a very unhealthy situation and usually continue and perpetuate another negative family cycle.

While condoms are not a cure all or 100% effective, they certainly substantially lessen the possibilities of diseases and pregnancies. I keep a supply in a drawer and replenish it when it gets low. I don't ask questions. I DO, on an ongoing basis, discuss the problems and dangers of having inappropriate sex. I explain that while I don't condone it, I don't want to see anyone dying from an STD or having a baby at 15 or 16 years old. Since I didn't raise these kids from birth, I have to do what I can at THIS point.

A well meaning person recently made a statement on a newsgroup that condoms are not effective against AIDS and used a biased pro-life article as documentation. He stated that the AIDs virus is small enough to compromise a condom - that it can go right through the condom wall. The medical research below states that the virus cannot permeate a condom.

"Laboratory studies prove that sperm and disease-causing organisms cannot pass through intact latex condoms. Sperm has a diameter of 3 microns (.003 mm). STD-causing organisms are much smaller-from 1/4 to 1/90 the size of sperm. Still, laboratory tests show that none can penetrate an intact latex condom. This includes HIV."

"Condoms are required to undergo demanding tests, including tests for holes before they are sold. If any holes are found, the condoms are discarded."

(Rietmeijer C.A.M. et al. "Condoms as physical and chemical barriers against HIV." JAMA 259(12):1851-1853, 1988; and Conant, M. et al. "Condoms prevent transmission of AIDS-associated retrovirus." JAMA 255(13):1706, 1986.)

At the bottom of this page are several links to papers from The University of California speaking to the use of condoms and the AIDs crisis. After reading the articles its difficult to understand how anyone would still state that condoms are not effective against the transmittal of STDs including AIDS.

Latex condoms are effective against disease, including AIDS, and pregnancy. And there's a newer one on the market now - its a kind of plastic and claims to be non-permeable.

With regard to those who have religious and/or moral principles which preclude distributing condoms, its OK to have the high morals - nothing wrong with that unless those morals jeopardize youngsters who, so far, haven't had an opporunity to learn and believe that abstinence is the best way to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

I'm aware of a certain religious group who refuses to participate in blood transfusions because of their religious beliefs and religious ethics. This practice has caused the death of some of its members. Self destruction and suicide is one issue but when the religious practioners decide to impose their values on others who don't subscribe to their values and death or serious illness may result, the practice becomes more than just a religious principle. It becomes a danger to life.

I recently received an email from a lady who I would identify as a "fundamentalist Roman Catholic". She finished reading this page and sent the following to me:

"Mike, seldom do I try and show my temper on these sites, but today I am going to make an exception to that rule. Self assumed righteous indignation?!"

"Excuse me here, but on your foster parent site you have a link promoting giving condoms to teenagers for sexual activity."

"I know you try to sugar coat that on that link by stating that you would rather not see them engage in such conduct, but when you hand teenagers condoms as an authority figure in their life, you are indeed promoting their sexual activity and you therefore become an enabler of that conduct."

"You should be promoting chastity."

While her comments are ludicrous and puerile they do reveal the mindset of extreme fundamentalists who set themselves up righteous moral authorities (Yes, there are Roman Catholic fundamentalists).

The kids we're dealing with usually don't share those moral or religious beliefs regarding abstinence. If they have been sexually active, they aren't going to stop their practice because I "promote chastity".

I wonder if the writer of the comments above would be willing to take a few babies and raise them after they have been produced by these kids.

Its our responsibility as foster parents to ensure the safety and preserve the life of our foster children by providing the means to keep them safe, healthy and alive. If that means providing condoms, then that's what we need to do. To do otherwise suggests irresponsibility on our part. Its like sticking our head in the sand and pretending the situation doesn't exist.

Providing condoms is not a moral compromise and is not meant to encourage kids to have sex. Its just plain common sense.

Foster children have enough negativity in their lives. They don't need more negative situations in their lives by acquiring AIDS or another STD or an unwanted pregnancy and child.

The Secret War on Condoms By Nicholas D. Kristof
New York Times - January 10, 2003
Thanks DJK for this article!

Do Condoms Work?

Does HIV Prevention Work?

Condom Information And Statistics

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Created August 15, 1999

Updated February 4, 2003