Pope Benedict's alternate universe
Pope Benedict XVI moves in an alternate universe, one where the Catholic Church's leader believes just saying no to sex would reverse the global spread of HIV/AIDS.
Seattle Times editorial
THE Catholic Church's opposition to birth control, including condoms, is well known. But Pope Benedict XVI does significant damage by criticizing condom distribution in the battle against HIV/AIDS.
Pope Benedict was en route to Cameroon for a weeklong tour of Africa when he decided to say of the continent's fight to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, "you can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem."
Not so. Condoms have greatly diminished the spread of the disease. That the pope would denounce condoms while heading to the continent most affected by the epidemic is unfortunate.
About 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS. In 2007, three-quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide were in Africa and two-thirds of all people living with HIV live on the continent. Those numbers would be higher if public-health workers did not use all tools at their disposal, including condoms, to keep people HIV-negative.
Contrast these statistics with the pontiff's remarks that marital fidelity and abstinence from premarital sex are better weapons in the battle against HIV/AIDS, and it is as though the pope moves in an alternate universe. In reality, people do not always abstain. Public-health policies are clear that the effective way to slow HIV/AIDS is with wide access to condoms and education about protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
The pontiff's remarks matter because in many religious communities the question of how to respond to the devastation of AIDS is weighed against opposition to condoms. But the reality is that until this deadly scourge is wiped out, all tools, including condoms, are necessary.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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