Thursday, March 19, 2009

Condoms for All

I’m so mad at that damn pope. He just went to Africa and declared that condoms contribute to the spread of HIV. Sixty percent of the world’s population that suffers from HIV/AIDS lives in Africa. That’s 26,000,000 people, or about three times as many people that were killed in the holocaust. One of the problems is a widespread African belief that condoms are emasculating, a weapon of outsider authorities to limit family size. Well, hmm.

But really, when you look at the bottom line of what kinds of things we can do to slow down the imminent destruction of the earth, public health and family planning education is like a no-brainer. Basically, just education. World population has nearly doubled in my lifetime. That would be all and good were we all getting enough to eat, but 13% of the world is undernourished, primarily Africa, India and the rest of SE Asia. We all saw Sally Struthers, channel surfing for cartoons when we were little. When you get bigger, then you go on a trip and meet hungry people in real life; it’s not cool.  

In the US, we have other problems. Like the cost of medical malpractice insurance, for example. People get litigious and look for someone to blame when healthcare goes awry (there are other reasons too, like insurance companies making bad investments or not having adequate reinsurance themselves). It makes practitioners very, very careful. Lots of rules. I wonder, sometimes, if it isn’t cost that gets in the way of family planning but a lack of convenience and accessibility.

Ask any American woman what kinds of hassles she’s tolerated to get birth control. Your company switches providers and you basically start over. I’ve literally had to have annual exams a month apart. “But I’ve just seen a doctor. Here’s my records.” “Not a Kaiser doctor. Can you scoot forward please?”. Renewing prescriptions is unfun. Years ago, my purse was stolen with prescriptions in it. If that exercise in replacing them took me to the brink of red-lining my hassle-ometer, what are 15 year old girls doing? Women who live in rural West Virginia or Mississippi, where GYOB’s are scarcely practicing anymore?

Enter the Australian medicine system. Remember how immigration made me go to a doctor about my urine when we first got here? So I look on the internet and see there’s a clinic two blocks from here. I call them. A charming young doctor sees me the next day. We talk about my urine. I tell him I take Depo Provera shots and will be due for one in a few months. He writes me a prescription. Right there. “Don’t you need to, um, see me?” I meant have an exam. That kinda came out weird. He says, “I’m seeing you now! Here’s your prescription.” A few months pass. I go to the pharmacy across the street. Pay $19 Aus. They give me a vial that will keep a family planned for three months and ask if I’m injecting myself, do I need syringes? “I can DO that? People DO that?!” I would totally do that. Bring it.

Just look at numbers like eleven trillion dollars (current US national debt) and try, like me, not to wonder why a mere pittance of that couldn’t have been spent on big festive baskets of condoms to put like cocktail nuts on every horizontal surface in the world? But just making tools readily available to people isn’t enough; they have to learn how to use them and then make a conscious choice whether then want to use them.  

I’d say an important factor in making choices is what we’re taught, what values are instilled in us by those who we admire. This is probably second only to a guidance by faith, an inexplicable belief in what is right. How can you make a logical argument for something that may be illogical?

Tom desperately wishes I would keep my overt self disclosures (say, like, birth control?) to a minimum and I adore Tom....can't even tell you why, but I'd do anything for him. It's just that I’m so mad at that damn pope.

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