Friday, May 27, 2005

Coburn on Condoms

Sen. James Coburn (R-OK) apparently gives a regular lecture for young folks who work or intern at the U.S. capitol--and all around Oklahoma, too--about STD's. The Washington Post has a lively article about the most recent lecture along with some feedback/commentary by Bill Smith, vice president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The lecture included some ghastly pictures of untreated STD's as well as some telling questions and answers.

The Senator, who is both politically and religiously conservative and who has frequently weighed in on AIDS-related federal policy, also talked about condoms.

During his 40-minute slideshow, Coburn avoided any spiritual overtones and spoke in his usual brisk clinical way. Still, Smith detected bias, taking issue, for example, with Coburn's contention that condoms are only 69 percent effective in preventing HIV; Smith says the latest studies show condoms to be 99 percent effective.

But Smith did give Coburn credit for saying during the question-and-answer portion, "Condoms do reduce the risk of transmission, and they work very well against HIV. If you decide to do any risky sexual behavior, use a condom."

That's the money quote, so to speak. We may as well ignore the apparent contradiction between his lecture and his answers to questions; it might be fun to be a bit snarky about it, but there's not much benefit there. Instead, we should all make a fast note that Coburn is quoted, as highlighted above, by Hanna Rosin in The Washington Post, May 27, 2005, page C01. The subject will come up again--and that quote will be most useful.

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