Culture vs. Condoms in Modern Day India

Dr. Harsch Vardhan, India’s appointed Minister of Health and Family Affairs, has caused a media blitz with his recent comments about culture vs. condoms in modern day India.

An ear nose and throat doctor by trade, Vardhan spoke out about the dangers of unprotected sex yesterday, and has been unfairly chastised for his word choices ever since. In fact, he had to clarify and retract some of his words in order to nullify the public’s drastic and uncalled for reaction.

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AIDs in India

With new cases of AIDs numbers skyrocketing in India during the last decade, it’s no wonder Vardhan is spearheading a backlash against unsafe sex. The 2011 stats in India puts them in third highest number of citizens with AIDs in the world, with a current estimated 1.4-2.08 million AIDs cases.

Innovations against HIV/AIDs available here in the states like intravaginal rings and Truvada are not yet available to India’s public. And yet, somehow the numbers of new AIDs patients has been falling the past few years. This is all because of education and communication about using condoms. Clearly this is the key to keeping this number down.

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The main focus of Vardhan’s argument against AIDs and other STDs is that they are being brought home and spread into supposedly monogamous relationships, in great numbers. He sees this as a decline in both traditional family values and personal responsibility. Although sex outside of marriage is taboo in their culture, obviously this isn’t stopping everyone from doing it. Of course, just to clarify, cheating is different from polyamory or other types of consensual non-monogamy.

It’s Easy as A,B,C

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However, contrary to popular belief, Vardhan isn’t suggesting for anyone to have sex without a condom, or to never have sex in general. He is simply stating that traditional cultural values in India, such as a monogamous marriage, should also play a role in how to have sex more safely. His ABC method of staying safer during sex is both easy to remember and is vital to the health of the nation. Abstinence, Be faithful, wear a Condom.

This philosophy differs from the abstinence-only education that occurs in many states here in the U.S. And, honestly, from the amount of sex education going on in India (and in some parts of America), this is a huge step in the right direction, as far as I am concerned. Anyone who has been on Yahoo Answers lately knows what I am talking about. The frantic internet advice searching person is not a rare commodity, when it come to sex and safety. Frankly, the level of sex ed ignorance out there is a bit frightening.

Internet Information Gathering 101

Due to a low literacy rate in some parts of India, phone helpline numbers and workshops/clinics are the best resource for information and safer sex products. Sex workers are being taught about the FC2 female condom in an effort to keep customers and workers safer. Considering that India is still actively fighting off polio, I think this is a progressive medical philosophy, and I commend Vadhar for openly speaking out about the importance of faithfulness and using a condom.

Hopefully in the future, culture and condoms won’t be battling each other out in India, but will live in harmony as a condom/culture fusion.

Source: [Times of India], [Wikipedia]

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The Condom Depot Learning Center provides free safer sex ed and has recently been resourced by Men's Health, Go Ask Alice, Her Campus, LifeHacker, Scarleteen, Bustle, Madame Noire, Jezebel, Vice, Stallion Style, aPlus, Sex Talk Tuesday and Adult Sex Ed Month.

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