On the heels of World AIDS day, Pope Benedict XVI has called
for prayers and organized efforts to help comfort those afflicted with the disease. In his weekly Sunday blessing he said the Catholic Church was at the forefront of the fight against AIDS, dedicating its caregivers and hospitals to the crisis. However, Benedict's opposition to condom distribution has drawn the ire of many who see it as an essential tool in combating its spread. Here's what columnists, AIDS workers and development experts are saying:
- Pope Needs to Wake Up, writes James Carrol at The Daily Beast: "Church leaders assert that condoms give people a false sense of
security, which leads them to have more sex, thereby increasing their
chances of infection. All of this ignores what has become an
international scientific consensus—that prevention is the key to
stemming the epidemic, and condoms properly and consistently used are
an essential part of prevention. 'Properly and consistently used' is
the operative phrase there, of course, and that assumes widespread
programs of sex education, which are also inhibited by the Catholic
hierarchy’s preference for the 'just say no' abstinence approach."
- Benedict Is Actually Correct, concedes Edward C. Green,
director of Harvard AIDS Prevention Research Project: "This is hard for
a liberal like me to admit, but... there's no evidence at all that
condoms have worked
as a public health intervention intended to reduce HIV infections at
the 'level of population.' This is a bit difficult to understand. It
may well make sense for an individual to use condoms every time, or as
often as possible, and he may well decrease his chances of catching
HIV. But we
are talking about programs, large efforts that either work or fail at
the level of countries, or, as we say in public health, the level of
- Who Is the Church Kidding? asks Christopher Brauchli at The Huffington Post: "Long before AIDS had become a prominent member of society, the Pope and
his predecessors opposed any means of artificial contraception. Once
AIDS made its appearance, the Senior Vatican officials adopted the
position that the most effective way of preventing the spread of AIDS,
aside from remaining faithful to one's partner, was avoiding sex.
Although the thousands of sexual abuse suits that have been brought
against the Church and settled, conclusively prove that avoiding sex is
easier said than done, the Vatican Officials are undeterred. The Church
remains firmly opposed to condoms while nonetheless proclaiming itself
a leader in the fight against AIDS."
- Condom Programs Fail in Africa, insists Giuseppe Caramazza
in The Guardian: "The condom might work in Europe; perhaps it does in
Latin America. It certainly does not in Africa. Those countries that
have chosen to popularise use of the condom – like
many nations in southern Africa – are now fast changing policies. Those
countries that have given emphasis to late start of sexual activity,
abstention and faithfulness in relationships have seen a dramatic fall
in the rate of new cases. According to UNAids, in Botswana 24% of the
adult population is
infected by the HIV virus, in South Africa 18%. In Uganda, after a
two-decade campaign stressing the importance of abstinence and
faithfulness, the figure is under 7% – a fact noticed by various
international agencies, which are now quietly modifying their targets."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
jhudson at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.