Pope Benedict IXI, a man of enormous religious authority, has been on a goodwill mission in Africa and making controversial comments to reporters (on a plane) in Yaoundé, Cameroon. According to amFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research), the Pope “reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.” This dogmatic “sex is for reproduction only” point of view, is, ill-informed, negligent and antiquated.
Even with a massive amount of evidence showing that condoms can be up to 95% effective in preventing the transmission of HIV (when used consistently and correctly) the Pope has “suggested that condoms are exacerbating the epidemic rather than helping control it.” Yahoo News has directly quoted the Pope as saying “You can’t resolve [HIV/AIDS] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.”
I am boggled, really.
• Condoms have been proven, time and time again to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS when used properly*
• In a 2007 estimate, more than 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live with HIV or AIDS.
• According to BBC, an estimated 20% of Africans follow the Catholic religion.
When I think about a public figure being on a goodwill mission, I don’t normally envision the figure specifically telling a group of people to avoid the use of something that could save their lives. amFAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost hit the nail on the head: “Condoms are an indispensable part of evidence-based HIV prevention programs and are necessary to curb the growing global epidemic. Health care and aid workers must be allowed to distribute them and teach people how to use them correctly”**
Thankfully I have read very few articles about health care workers not being allowed to distribute condoms to communities in need. I have however, read follow-up studies showing that many communities don’t continue to use condoms correctly and consistently, which is disheartening. More often than not, aid agencies find that getting past cultural objections to condom use is the hardest challenge.
On a more heartening note, a BBC article I encourage you to read, Pope’s condom stance sparks row reveals feelings from three European countries all boasting high numbers of Catholic Church members. French foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier: “while it is not up to us to pass judgment on Church doctrine, we consider that such comments are a threat to pubic health policies and the duty to protect human life.” Germany’s Health Minister Ulla Schmidt: “modern assistance to the developing world today must make access to family planning available to the poorest of the poor – especially the use of condoms. Anything else would be irresponsible.” Bert Koenders, Dutch Development Minister has been added to my list of people I’d like to meet before I die because of his comments. By the Pope “forbidding people from protecting themselves” was “extremely harmful and very serious. The pope is making matters worse.”
Another BBC article Why the Pope opposes condoms brings to light a well-balanced view from a senior Roman Catholic Church member Belgian Cardinal Goddfried Daneels: “using a condom with the intention of stopping disease was morally different than using one to prevent the creation of life.”
“>Condoms and Their Use in Preventing HIV Infection and Other STDs. Atlanta, GA: CDC, 1999.
• CDC. Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Atlanta, GA: CDC, 2002.