Madrid's Carlos III Hospital has provoked a controversy and a government investigation by distributing an informational pamphlet on sexuality that recommends abstinence from sexual intercourse until marriage, mentions that abortion ends a human life, and calls sodomy a "behavioral disturbance" that spreads disease and causes depression.
Although the statements in the pamphlet are conceded by much of the medical establishment and supported by peer-reviewed studies, Madrid's Health Director Juan Jose Guermes expressed outrage at its distribution, and promised a full investigation to determine who was responsible.
"That guide was expressly prohibited," Guermes told the media last week. “We are going to open a reserved informational file to counteract its distribution within the hospital."
Guermes claimed that the guide contained "personal opinions" of "only some" doctors at the Infectious Diseases unit of the hospital. However, he said, their opinions are "not official" and noted that the hospital, which has publicly disassociated itself from the document, had already removed it from circulation.
The pamphlet, a 53-page guide entitled, "Adolescents and AIDS: Questions and Answers," gives medical advice to readers regarding unhealthy sexual practices. It notes that scientific studies indicate that "homosexuality and heterosexuality are not comparable from a health perspective. Homosexuals tend to be more promiscuous, with the physical and emotional problems that (such behavior) supposes."
"Homosexuality is more frequently associated with sexually transmitted diseases and mental disturbances (anxiety, depression) ... it is necessary to be understanding and to help people with homosexual habits: to the extent that it is possible, it is necessary to resolve their behavioral disturbance."
Regarding abortion, the guide states that "although some legal systems, such as that in Spain, allow abortions under certain circumstances, from the biological point of view, abortion is nothing less than the termination of the life of a human being inside the womb of his mother."
The guide also repeats the fact, acknowledged by the United Nations, that condoms have a high failure rate, even when used "properly," stating that contraceptive use has "limited effectiveness" in the face of "the AIDS pandemic, which is growing rapidly." It also condemns the notion that "sex with a condom is safe" which, "besides being false, can be dangerous" because "it conveys messages that trivialize sexuality, encouraging the population to be promiscuous, in an animalistic way."
The pamphlet promotes the "ABC" approach that has been highly effective in Africa, particularly in Uganda. The ABC ("Abstinence, Be faithful, use a Condom") approach prioritizes abstinence and faithfulness due to their effectiveness in preventing the transmission of venereal diseases.
The Spanish newspaper El Mundo opined in its story on the case that the pamphlet "is filled with ideology that contradicts the most basic psychology. And democracy."
The Collective of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals, and Bisexuals of Madrid claims that the guide, "does not divulge scientific and objective information."
However, some segments of the commercial media have questioned the furor surrounding a pamphlet that generally conveys medical facts and counsels readers to recognize "true love" rather than cheap pleasure.
"It is necessary to ask if the Public Administration should focus almost exclusively on the most liberal tendencies that support abortion and sexual practices, like masturbation and promiscuity, and even homosexuality on occasion, or if they should also focus on that sector of society that supports a life based on love and faithfulness to one's partner, which in the final analysis is the only certain method for preventing 100% of these diseases?" writes Cristina Arredondo for Gaceta.
"Both the Carlos III (Hospital) and the City of Madrid have wanted to distance themselves from that guide ... why are they looking the other way?" writes El Pais in an editorial. "The fact that more than 75% of AIDS infections are produced by sexual transmission (either because of sick homosexuals or perverted heterosexuals) is a secondary issue. If these careless people knew about the scientific soundness of true love, they would have no doubt: chastity before condoms."
(I live for the day the New York Times prints an editorial like that!)