Condoms

MAIL:

To the Editors of The Crimson:

In his commentary, "Political Machines," Steven Lichtman argues that the proposed installation of condom dispensers is a matter that does not merit the serious consideration it has received. Apparently ignoring the vast portion of the campus which has worked for or supported the proposal, he implies that the Undergraduate Council has used the issue for political motives. This conclusion is based upon a misunderstanding of the nature of the plan outlined by the council, and a line of reasoning which rambles from irrelevant facts to plain silliness. Worst of all, he ignores the facts in denying the importance of condoms.

The Undergraduate Council and House Committees, says Lichtman, are "stockpiling, survivalist-like, condoms on house basements and across campus," an action which "can only heighten AIDS hysteria." This is an unfair mischaracterization. In deciding on laundry rooms and similar locations, the UC and House Committees carefully considered the importance of not just providing a service, but of creating an appropriate atmosphere, one which encourages awareness and action but is not offensive or irrational. Ideally, the stigma associated with condoms, whether humorous or distasteful, will be slowly dispelled as their presence becomes commonplace. Two condom dispensers in a house can successfully strike a middle ground between accessiblility and tact, between effectiveness and taste. The Undergraduate Council, in consultation with Universisity Health Services and Peer Contraceptive Counselling, also plans to distribute pamphlets on AIDS prevention and condoms. I can only conclude that when Lichtman asserts that AIDS "hysteria" will be on on the rise, he believes that offering education and solutions to a problem is somehow negative or selfdefeating.

Lichtman's comments on the unreliability of "natural" condoms are well taken but have no bearing on the program being considered at Harvard. The condoms in the dispensers will most likely be lubricated latex models, possibly coated with spermicidal jelly shown to give additional protection against the AIDS virus.

Also true, but in this case irrelevant, is the statement regarding the growing AIDS problem, among intravenous drug users. While AIDS has shown a clear statistical shift towards this group, its incidence is rising in the general population, both heterosexual and homosexual. It is to this alarming increase that the council and House Committees are addressing themselves.

In contending that the availability of condoms around Harvard Square makes on-campus dispensers unnecessary, Lichtman is ignoring the fact that many people are reluctant to purchase condoms across the counter. Embarrassment, unfortunately is often a stronger force than common sense.

Lichtman's most striking contention is that "there is no reason other than peace of mind and routine birth control, why heterosexuals need condoms." The stunning reckless claim is supported with figures (whose statistical significance seems questionable) on the spread of AIDS among sexually active women. Lichtman has missed a crucial point: the fact that the occurance of an incident may be unlikely does not mean that one shouldn't be concerned with or take steps to prevent it. Should the statistical unlikelihood of nuclear war in the next ten years prevent us from concerning ourselves with disarmament, or should the statistically unlikelihood of contracting polio prevent us from being vaccinated? No doubt, the installation of condom dispensers will have almost no effect on the majority of Harvard students, but the true bottom line is that if so much as one life is saved, the program will be well worth any effort or ruffled feathers.

While Lichtman's remarks are certainly not intended to be discriminatory, he suggests that AIDS is, essentially, a homosexual problem and that, as such, we should not directly concern ourselves with it. Even if this were the case, and it clearly is not, homosexuals are a large and important minority in the college.

Finally, whether Lichtman is joking or serious, I feel that questioning the sincerity of those students at Harvard and members of the community who are taking concrete steps to encourage the use of condoms is highly inappropriate. No doubt, many of us know people who have died of AIDS, many of us are sexually active and are concerned with contracting it, many of us are purely concerned with public health. Unless the Surgeon General is also simply interested in "prurient thrills," we should conclude that he is correct when he says that "barring abstinence, the use of a condom is the best means of preventing the spread of AIDS. Noam Bramson '91

Recommended Articles