Meet the world’s most influential witchdoctor

18 03 2009

From The Guardian:

The Pope today reignited the controversy over the Catholic church’s stance on condom use as he made his first trip to Africa.

The pontiff said condoms were not the answer to the continent’s fight against HIV and Aids and could make the problem worse.

Benedict XVI made his comments as he flew to Cameroon for the first leg of a six-day trip that will also see him travelling to Angola.

The timing of his remarks outraged health agencies trying to halt the spread of HIV and Aids in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 22 million people are infected.

The Roman Catholic church encourages sexual abstinence and fidelity to prevent the disease from spreading, but it is a policy that has divided some clergy working with Aids patients.

The pontiff, speaking to journalists on his flight, said the condition was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

Rebecca Hodes, of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, said that if the Pope was serious about preventing new HIV infections he would focus on promoting wider access to condoms and spreading information about how best to use them.

Hodes, the director of policy, communication and research for the campaign group, added: “Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”

Millions of lives are at stake owing to the sad fact that this man’s ill-informed and anti-scientific utterances are taken seriously. (That, compounded with the—hopefully diminishing—human desire to flush one’s brain down the toilet, ignore reality and prostrate oneself before dogma and self-appointed authority.)

Bush nominates degayification advocate as US Surgeon-General

14 06 2007

Australia doesn’t really have an equivalent of the US Surgeon-General (technically, the closest equivalent is the Chief Medical Officer). He or she is the unofficial public face of health in the US, and is generally seen as a respected and authoritative advocate of public health education and healthy living. Naturally, the Christian Right would regard getting one of their own into this position as a major coup in its quest to Talibanise America.

As the disastrous experiment with abstinence-only sex education has demonstrated (an experiment destined to continue thanks to a decision by lily-livered Democrats to increase funding for such programmes), the fundagelicals don’t do health science well. But what do they care?–they’re more interested in saving souls than lives, and they’re not about to let reality get in the way of their Bronze Age agenda.

Regarding the office of Surgeon-General, the faith-heads have had previous success: in 1994 they forced the resignation of Jocelyn Elders after she dared to suggest the promotion of so benign an activity as masturbation as an alternative to riskier sexual practices–despite the fact that masturbation carries no harmful side effects–expect possibly chafing. (Indeed, frequent ejaculation has been found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men, but I guess Jesus wants you to get prostate cancer.)

But the big pay-off for the Religious Right would be to manoeuvre a kool-aid-sipping fundagelical into the position of Surgeon-General itself. And now they have a sniff of victory, thanks to the Bush administration’s nomination to the post of James Holsinger, a Paul Cameron-class homophobe:

James Holsinger, President George W. Bush’s nominee for Surgeon General, has a dark view of homosexuals. In a 1991 paper, Holsinger describes homosexual sex in sickeningly lurid language. “Fist fornication,” “sphincter injuries,” “lacerations,” “perforations” and “deaths seen in connection with anal eroticism,” are some of the terms Holsinger concocted to describe acts with which he suggests at least medical familiarity (a case of participant observation, perhaps?). At the same paper, Holsinger puzzlingly issues no warnings about the dangers of heterosexual sex in his paper. To him, only “anal eroticism” is a health peril.

As the Alternet article points out, what is most worrying about this nomination is not so much Holsinger’s bigotry as his support for “ex-gay therapy.” In other words, the individual who the Bush administration believes is best qualified to give the American public advice on healthy living is someone who believes homosexuality is both a “lifestyle choice” and a “disease” that can be “cured.” Moreover, the nomination is a tacit endorsement of a therapy discredited by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and other mainstream medical organizations. The American Psychiatric Association maintains that there is “no scientific evidence that reparative or conversion therapy is effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation;” there is evidence, however, that ex-gay therapy can have harmful effects, including “depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by a patient.”

Hopefully, US senators will give this snake-oil salesman the short shrift he deserves.