No moral problem with condoms, but they sometimes break: Harsh Vardhan

In a bid to douse the controversy over his comments questioning the stress on condom promotion to curb AIDS, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said he was misquoted.

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: In a bid to douse the controversy over his comments questioning the stress on condom promotion to curb AIDS, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said he was misquoted.

"Through misleading headlines, an impression is sought to be created that I have misgivings about the efficacy of condoms or that I have a moral problem with condoms. This is apart from the fact because for the past two decades I have been stressing the need for safe sex using a combination of condoms and discipline which is in line with the Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom (ABC) line of UNAIDS which has yielded great success in Uganda and now forms part of the anti-AIDS campaigns of several countries," the minister, who is in the United States, said in a statement.
The Health Minister also expressed "disappointment" over the way media "distorted" his statements in an interview given to The New York Times.

In the interview to the US daily, Dr Harsh Vardhan was quoted as saying: "One should also promote integrity of sexual relationship between husband and wife - a part of Indian culture."

"The thrust of the AIDS campaign should not only be on the use of condoms. This sends the wrong message that you can have any kind of illicit sexual relationship, but as long as you`re using a condom, it`s fine," he said.

In response to the criticism he received, the ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist said: "Any experienced NGO activist knows that condoms sometimes break while being used. That is why government campaigns in India, whether through the National Aids Control Organisation or the state governments, should focus on safe sex as a holistic concept which includes highlighting the role of fidelity to single partners."
He said: "The tradition of preserving institution of marriage governed relevant government legislations".

"Even the law on divorce insists on attempts at reconciliation and suggest recourse to separation only in the last resort,” he said. “The culture of regarding husband and wife as halves of a whole should be upheld in the modern age where one sees all-round crumbling of values."

"My statement on informing people on the supremacy of fidelity as an AIDS prevention measure is not only a piece of cultural advice but also a scientific one. So as Minister of Health I find it justified to include this simple message in the communication strategy of the government`s anti-AIDS programmes," he said.

"Condoms promise safe sex, but the safest sex is through faithfulness to one`s partner. Prevention is always better than cure," he added.

On Wednesday, Aam Aadmi Party leader Ashutosh slammed Dr Harsh Vardhan for having “regressive views” and advised him to grow up.