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Attitude About Condom Use Must Be Realistic

Of the many things I would like to challenge in the article "Using a Condom Won't Always Prevent AIDS, Pregnancy [April 7]" by Robert Terwilliger, I would first like to point out a rather large numerical error on the effectiveness of condoms. A condom is not 12% effective in preventing pregnancy as stated, but 88% effective -- that is, if you aren't careful. If you follow the instructions and are cautious, condoms are 98% effective. If used with foam, they are more than 99% effective. Furthermore, the spermicide non-oxynol 9 has been proven effective in killing the AIDS virus. I am appalled that the inaccuracies in Terwilliger's article went uncorrected. In light of these corrections, very little of his article remains logical.

No advocate of condom use would ever say that using a condom prevents AIDS and other STD's all of the time. In fact, I have noticed many proponents in this area referring to sex with the use of a condom as "safer" sex, not safe sex. The reason there is a growing movement to educate the public about condom use is that, as rational human beings with common sense, we try to offer the best, practical method possible to handle a very dangerous problem. If an individual decides to have sex, using a condom with a spermicidal agent is the most effective means to avoid pregnancy and the transmission of the AIDS virus.

The message of Terwilliger's article is fine for those who do not mind waiting to have sex until they are married or those who are in the minority of marriages where both partners are faithful. However, his article ignores the well over 80% of teenagers who are sexually active by the time they are sixteen. The article does not even mention those in the gay and lesbian community who are prohibited, by law, from getting married. The article does not take into consideration the multitudes of people who do not want to get married or who do want to get married but, perhaps, find themselves at the mercy of personal ads for the lack of a better means of meeting people. Finding a life-long partner is not easy and often takes time.

Terwilliger's article does not speak to the millions of people in this country who are single, sexually active, and in no hurry to get married or to put their sex lives on hold until they hear wedding bells. Terwilliger should realize that once people are sexually active, they tend to stay that way. Granted, Terwilliger did not go so far as to say that condoms should be made illegal, thereby forcing people to abstain from sex until they are married and can indulge in natural family planning (while attending church every Sunday, of course.) However, expecting people to be celibate until they are wed is equally ludicrous.

It is naive to think that marriage is equivalent to monogamy. Over half of all marriages in this country end in divorce, many of them because of infidelity. When faced with a choice between not having sex until finally meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right (whenever that will be) or having protected sex at a minimal risk of pregnancy or contraction of an STD, which do you think people are going to choose?

Claire Woodman '95

MIT Students for Choice

and Reproductive Freedom