During history’s headiest, and certainly most expensive, political campaign, Republican candidate John McCain was asked "Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?" McCain‘s answer to the reporter who asked the question? After a long pause, all he could come up with was "You've stumped me."
This led the most important pro-birth control organization in the US to hand out specially made condoms to political delegates, with a label that read “Protect yourself from John McCain”.
We will never know if perhaps those Humble Little Condoms did help get Barrack Obama elected, but the fact that he is being touted as America’s “First African American” president does beg the question, “Is he in tune to his own community when it comes to condom use?” or more accurately, lack of condom use?
If not, he needs to be.
American blacks have the highest rate of STDs, to include HIV/AIDS, of any group in the US or any other Western nation for that matter, and the numbers just keep getting worse. Just days before the election, the Center for Disease Control announced that 48% of black girls between the ages of 14-19 have an STD; black women suffer the highest rate of syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV of any group; about 70% of all American women who suffer from HIV/AIDS are black; AIDS is amongst the top three leading causes of death for black women.
Black men suffer even higher numbers: AIDS has doubled in that population in the 2000s; 2/3 of the black men who die while in prison suffered from HIV; from just 2006 to 2007, STD rates went up over 12% in black men. In other words, African Americans make up 12% of the US population, but they represent 50% of all AIDS cases in the US.
But what is a new president to do? Perhaps he should ask Pastor W. James Favorite, a courageous preacher whose church was built right after the American Civil War by freed slaves for freed slaves, a fact he believes makes it a very special place for his particular ministry. Those slaves believed they could, with God’s help, bring themselves out of slavery, and into the mainstream, enjoying the same rights and priveleges as whites. That, sadly, has not always been the case.
Favorite serves one of the many many poor black communities in the American South - he is in Tampa, Florida, where 1 in every 85 residents is HIV positive - and besides trying to get his own flock to understand the need to practice safe sex, he preaches to his own, going place-to-place to try to get his fellow pastors to take their heads out of the sexual sand. At one such meeting, he realized just how hard that was going to be, given he could not even get most of them to say the word ‘condom.’
As Favorite addressed a group of black pastors from around his state, he went where angels fear to tread, telling them that they had all taken the naive view that:
“It’s not here, not in our churches.” But, “Then we found members of our congregations dying. We didn’t even want to shake their hands.“
So what did Favorite propose?
“How do we bring into our teaching the use of condoms? We believe abstinence is the answer, but there are those who will not listen. We have to tell them that the least they can do is use a condom.”
The response from these erstwhile gentlemen?
Silence was the stern reply.
But why, when they know that in their pews every Sunday sit parishioners, young and old, suffering from HIV/AIDs, are these men so reluctant to follow Favorite’s example of speaking plainly to his flock, quite literally to save their lives? Because they believe that the Bible says it all. Don’t do it unless you are married!
But Favorite is doing his best to teach his fellow preachers that the message is not getting through and that they are not serving their God as he would intend until they did everything they could to help make African Americans healthy again.
Hopefully Barack Obama will show the same courage when it comes to sex education, not just for blacks, but for all Americans, instead of following in other American presidents’ painful footsteps: when AIDS reached America’s shores, Ronald Reagan did everything he could to prevent the message of prevention from reaching Americans. Both Presidents Bush have pathetic records in that regard.
But, given the sad state of black health in that country, along with the connections the new president holds with the center of the AIDS epidemic - Africa - we can only suppose that Obama is a big fan of condoms and his policies will reflect that “fact.”