Pro-family advocates and critics around the world expressed strong opposition this week after news spread that the nation of Brazil would begin a large scale effort to combat the spread of AIDS and STDs through the installation of condom vending machines in hundreds of its schools.
According to Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao, AIDS is a major problem among Brazilian youth with an alarming 70,000 cases of AIDS reported among Brazilians under 24.
Eduardo Barbosa, head of the National Program for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, had explained the new development as one that would be crucial in combating AIDS and STDs.
"The expectation is that all of the public schools will have at least one machine. At the end of the year, we will evaluate the usage and the appropriateness of the machines in the school environment, and how we give information and guidance regarding them," Barbosa told the Jornal do Brasil.
Critics, however, have been skeptical about the notion of putting condoms in schools.
Cristovam Buarque, a former Minister of Education, has made his opposition to the measure known since the debate over it first began last year. Buarque has been among those who argue that only through adequate sex education policies in schools – not the careless distribution of condoms – can the incidences of AIDS and STDs decrease.
"The solution is not the mechanical ease of machines that distribute condoms," he told Brazzil.com.
"Today, many children are enrolled in school but do not attend. They go merely for the snacks served. Now, they will go to receive condoms," he added.
Pro-family advocates, meanwhile, argue that abstinence and faith-based programs are the only tried and true ways to stem the tide of AIDS.
Most notably, studies in the United States have consistently revealed that abstinence-based education programs have been effective in schools.
In a review by The Heritage Foundation, 15 out of 21 abstinence-education programs "showed positive behavioral results in the students, including the delay or reduction of sexual activity."
"The big problem with this government program for distributing condom machines to the schools is that, rather than teaching fidelity and respect in relationships with others, it runs the risk of creating an incentive to engage in sexual intercourse, including premature sexual intercourse," explained Dom Dimas Lara Barbosa, the secretary-general of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB), according to LifeSiteNews.com
"Our mission as Catholics must be to reaffirm the beauty of human sexuality, but above all, the respect that one should have in every action, including the conjugal act. Safe sex, only in marriage, blessed by God," he concluded.
The new measure will begin taking effect in October.