March 26, 2009 Condoms are Key in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS An interview with MSF's HIV advisor
Dr.Kalpana Sabapathy, HIV advisor for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), explains the importance of condoms in the fight against HIV.
How crucial is the use of condoms in the fight against HIV?
Condoms are the key to safe sex. They not only prevent HIV but many sexually transmitted infections. And they prevent unwanted pregnancies. Sexual intercourse is a reality of the human condition. Promoting only abstinence to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a naïve and unrealistic approach. A more attainable goal is to ensure that people behave in a safe way.
MSF doctors who work with people living with HIV/AIDS are painfully aware that being faithful has not helped many of their patients. HIV is a chronic infection that can take years to manifest itself as a disease. As a result, seemingly healthy people, in the prime of their reproductive lives, may be unknowingly spreading an infection which they acquired years earlier. Abstinence is practiced by some, but it is implausible for many adults.
Promotion of safe sex is the only responsible choice.
Is prevention as important as treatment?
We need prevention measures to stop the spread of a disease that often infects people in the prime of their lives.
MSF pioneered the treatment and care of people living with HIV/AIDS in resource-limited settings and has since started more than 130,000 people on antiretroviral therapy (ART). This is a significant achievement, but the fact remains that for every person who is put on treatment worldwide, four become newly infected. This is the stark reality of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Can we ever win the fight against HIV?
We must fight the disease on several fronts if we are ever to stop the destruction that HIV/AIDS causes. Accepting the numerous realities of the lives of the people we provide for is part and parcel of promoting their health and well-being effectively. MSF promotes the use of condoms for sexually active individuals in the communities where we work. At the same time, we continue the fight for increased access to medical care and ART for people with HIV/AIDS.