Archaeology Odyssey 2:5, November/December 1999

Editors’ Page: Let’s Do What We Can!

The impossible will take forever

By Hershel Shanks

Archaeology Odyssey

Two relevant articles in the same issue of the New York Times. The first is on the front page, about a South African woman named Glynis Rhodes who walks the streets of Capetown distributing female condoms to “barely dressed” prostitutes. Ms. Rhodes demonstrates her wares by stretching the female condom to show how much stronger it is than a male condom and explains how to use it. “Persuading [prostitutes] to use condoms,” the article observes, “has notably reduced rates of AIDS infection.”

The second article, on page 7, describes a billboard program in Chicago offering drug-addicted women $200 in cash to have their “tubes tied.” Similar programs have been adopted in California, Florida and Minnesota in an effort to prevent “crack babies,” babies with a drug addiction, from being born.

What is the relevance of these programs to a magazine like Archaeology Odyssey?

Simply this: I suppose it could be argued that the distribution of female condoms only encourages prostitution, that it enables these women to ply their trade in relative safety, that more women will become prostitutes if they know it can be done without the danger of AIDS and that we should work to eliminate prostitution, not make it safer.

Similarly, it could be argued that the women who take up the $200 offer—they are already drug-addicted—will simply use the money to buy more drugs, that instead of giving them drug money, we should be helping to cure their addiction.

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