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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Herpes: The New NFP?

I teach a college class on contemporary ethics, in which we examine different ethical systems and the ways in which they affect decision making.

During the course of one discussion, a class exercise involved the consideration of a man with genital herpes who has not yet told his girlfriend of his affliction. His sister knows about her brother's situation. Since the brother's girlfriend is a friend of hers, she debates whether or not to inform the woman of the problem or whether she should rely on her brother to do so.

As we discussed the problem, it occurred to me that the situation with herpes is in nearly every respect identical to Natural Family Planning and periodic abstinence.

As the State of Illinois says, for instance,
The symptoms of recurrent episodes are usually milder than those of the first episode and typically last about a week. (emphasis added)
Odd... isn't that the amount of time an NFP couple typically abstains?

And what about this?
Avoid sexual contact from the time symptoms are first recognized until the sores are completely healed, that is, until scabs have fallen off and new skin has formed over the site of the lesion...
Not having sex is the best protection against herpes and other STDs. Having sex with only one uninfected partner who has sex with you is also safe. 

That is, couples can have sexual relations for years without one partner transmitting the virus to the other, as long as the couple agrees to abstain from sex during those times when open sores are in evidence. If sex is put off until the sores heal, the virus is much less likely to be transmitted.

As it turns out, condoms prove only about a 30% protection against herpes.

Now, no one thinks that periodic abstinence is outrageous when it comes to herpes transmission.
But lots of people openly scoff at periodic abstinence when baby-making is involved.

It's almost as if they realize there's a major difference between opening a monthly discussion about trying to avoid a disease, versus opening a discussion each month about whether or not to welcome a child into your life.

1 comment:

Mystic Rose said...

>>Odd... isn't that the amount of time an NFP couple typically abstains?

Well, it's actually more like ten days at the very least, but often longer than that.