Pope words on condoms bolster AIDS fight in Africa

pope lichtPope Benedict’s qualified backing of condom use to help prevent AIDS marks a small breakthrough for efforts to fight the scourge in Africa, giving health workers and clergy more scope to broach a still-taboo subject.

News of the pontiff’s comments in a book came days before a U.N. report on Tuesday showed that even Africa was making inroads into the epidemic, with a fall in infection rates over the past decade coinciding with greater availability of condoms. (Photo: Pope Benedict with book, 23 Nov 2010/Osservatore Romano)

“It does open the opportunity for discussion,” Paul De Lay, Deputy Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said of the pope’s statement, citing past confusion among many African Catholics over the Church’s approach to AIDS.

“These comments are positive in the sense that they correct the message he gave last year. Now we need to really spread the word right into the villages,” said Eugide Bashombana, HIV Officer for aid group Oxfam in Democratic Republic of Congo where Catholics make up around half the population and which has an estimated HIV infection rate of 4.3 percent.

Among the large Catholic minority in Kenya, where infection rates peaked at around 10 percent in the 1990s, the pope’s comments were welcomed by many followers. “As the world is changing and things are also changing every day, I think the use of condoms is a right thing at the moment for the young generation,” businessman Alfred Nalango told Reuters outside the Holy Family Basilica church in Nairobi.

Condoms sometimes permissible to stop AIDS: Pope

pope seatedThe use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS may be justified in certain cases, Pope Benedict says in a new book that could herald the start of sea
change in the Vatican’s attitude to condoms.

In excerpts published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on Saturday, the pope cites the example of the use of condoms by prostitutes as “a first step toward moralization” but says that condoms were “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”

While some Roman Catholic leaders have spoken in the past about the limited use of condoms in specific cases to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS as a lesser of two evils, this is the first time the pope has mentioned the possibility.

Pope skirts condoms issue in World AIDS Day statement

Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd during his weekly general audience, 28 Nov. 2007When Pope Benedict expressed his closeness to victims of AIDS in advance of World AIDS Day on December 1, one thing was conspicuously absent from his comments — either a specific mention or a reference to the use of condoms.

The Pope, speaking at his weekly general audience on Wednesday, called for increased efforts to stop the spread of AIDS and said victims of the disease should not be treated with disdain. He criticised international agencies he said were spreading abortion. The C-word was not present in either in letter or spirit in his two-paragraph comments in Italian.

When his predecessor John Paul spoke of AIDS, whether he was speaking in the Vatican or during his trips abroad, he often mentioned, either directly or indirectly, that condoms were not the answer.