Rationality Now Rotating Header Image

The Pope Seems Pro-HIV

Today, Pope Benedict XVI stated, while en route to Africa to address the continent’s “grave problems and painful wounds”, that condoms do not help stem the spread of HIV, but actually make it worse.

Here’s the quote.

You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.

In another related quote, he said,

[AIDS] is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.

The Catholic Church promotes “abstinence education” and opposes methods of birth control, including condoms. Perhaps the Pope was using statistics such as the ones in this article which state that even though the number of condoms has increased, so has the number of people infected with HIV.

[Edward Green] wrote Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning From Successes in Developing Countries and reported that, between 1989 and 2001, the average number of condoms per male ages 15 to 49 in African countries skyrocketed. So did the number of those infected with HIV. South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe had the world’s highest levels of condom availability per man. They also had the world’s highest HIV rates.

At first glance, that sounds bad for proponents of condom usage for AIDS prevention. However, it says nothing about condom usage, only condom availability. The hardest part about promoting condom usage in places like South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe is overcoming the social aversion to condom usage. Education is key, and with church representatives like Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo running around saying things like this

The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ that is formed by the condom. […] These margins of uncertainty… should represent an obligation on the part of the health ministries and all these campaigns to act in the same way as they do with regard to cigarettes, which they state to be a danger.

…educating people is a nearly insurmountable struggle against a increasing rise of deliberately orchestrated ignorance and misinformation. The Catholic Church, because of its adherence to faith-based dogma, is working directly against efforts that are proven, when given the chance, to reduce the spread of HIV.

According to the World Health Organization (information from the same article above), “consistent and correct” condom usage reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%. Given that the WHO bases their statements on science and research, I’d say that they’re at least a little more reliable regarding medical issues than an organization that bases its beliefs on a 2,000 year old holy book.

The Pope’s statements are irresponsible and ethically bankrupt at best.

One Comment

  1. HIV/AIDS is still rampant today and there is no cure for it. we need to practive safe sex all the time because an ounce of prevention is still better than a pound of cure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.