Pope: Condoms make AIDS epidemic worse

posted by David Gibson

Pope gets on board.jpgDuring the in-flight newser to Cameroon for his first African trip, Benedict XVI responded to six questions, one regarding the urgent issue of AIDS in Africa. His response, via CNS:

“One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem,” the pope said.

Nor can the AIDS pandemic be confronted only with aid programs, he said.

What the church teaches, he said, is “humanization of sexuality” and sexual responsibility on the one hand, and a willingness to be present with those who are suffering, on the other hand.

He pointed to the many church programs currently helping AIDS victims and said the church’s contribution had led to real and visible progress.

The U.N. office monitoring the pandemic reports some 22 million Africans living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS; that number represents about 67 percent of all HIV-positive people in the world. The office also reported that 74 percent of all AIDS-related deaths in 2007 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

Church officials estimate that Catholic institutions and programs provide about one-fourth of all health care to AIDS victims.

Any science to back up the pope’s claim? 

BTW, the first question asked of the pope was whether he is too isolated, as many have suggested in the wake of various recent “communications” gaffes:

“I have to laugh a bit about this myth of my solitude,” he said. “In no way do I feel alone. I am really surrounded by friends, close collaborators, bishops and laypeople.”

(Pope Benedict XVI boarding his Alitalia charter via Rocco.)

Comments read comments(15)
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Steve T

posted March 17, 2009 at 2:53 pm

In a way I know what the pope means. Taking responsibility is far more important than a condom. Perhaps he means that a condom gives the illusion of safety, after all, how many babies are alive today because of blown out condoms?

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posted March 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I adore my spouse…but if one of us had HIV/Aids, would I trust a condom to prevent the spread of a deadly illness? I don’t think so.

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posted March 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm

That statement by Benny proves he is out of touch with reality! Condoms distribution causes Aids? Isn’t that a bit unrealistic? How does he plan to stop children being born with the disease? Is he and the church taking care of ALL the orphans caused by Aids? No, they aren’t. How in heck does he think that NO condoms will help anything!? Personal responsiblity is a wonderful thing, but has he read the lack of results from “abstinence only” education? IT DOESN’T WORK in this country so how is it going to work in poorer countries? I’m all for sex education where responsibilty and abstinence is taught as a sure way to not get a disease of a baby,but the other methods need to be taught…condoms?
No matter what he says about being surrounded by all those friends etc., he is, IMO, isolated. He depends on pushing the RCC line of “just don’t do it”. Doesn’t work, folks. Get real.

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posted March 17, 2009 at 3:40 pm

The difference, A, is that you have access to condoms…thus you can make a choice to have sex or not. Benny doesn’t want access to them, thus…no choice.

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Dave A

posted March 17, 2009 at 4:19 pm

This is sad.
Condoms will save lives. Millions of them. stop thinking about theology and start thinking about your fellow human beings.

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posted March 17, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Obviously the man has never lived in poverty. He has no sense of protecting women who may, in many cases, be powerless to protect themselves. I think Benedict’s edict is irresponsible.

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posted March 17, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Pagansister. Condoms are available by the bucket full in Africa… but many reject them for all sorts of cultural reasons. The latest available statistics show that countries in Africa with a large Catholic percentage population, show significantly lower rates of HIV/AIDS infections than countries with mostly non-Catholic populations. So they must be doing something right.
Pagansister, please do not minimize the work the Church has done in the care of those suffering patients and orphans who are victims of this horrendous crisis. At least 1 in 4 HIV/Aids patients on the planet are cared for in Catholic institutions.

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Bradford McIntyre

posted March 17, 2009 at 7:12 pm

This is an example of how the Catholic Church’s anti condom campaign is contributing to the spread of HIV.
The Pope refuses to recognize the harm the Catholic Church is causing with it’s refusal to promote condom use in the prevention of HIV and AIDS. HIV+ individuals have even been told by Priests and Nuns that they should not use condoms. Religious leaders who forcefully directed and encourage abstinence have stopped campaigns on the use of condoms!
Condoms may not be preferred but the reality is they are now necessary. The use of condoms saves lives and condoms work to prevent the further spread of HIV!
We know many of our youth are having sex and will have sex in the future. To teach abstinence without including education on the need for a condom and how to use a condom will lead to more HIV and STD infections. Education is the key! Condoms prevent HIV infection!
We know that individuals who are told they must refrain from sex or make pledges of abstinence that they are very often ill prepared and a condom is not used when they do engage in sex. They become infected!
We also know that we cannot rely on the pledge of fidelity. Many women and men who considered themselves to be in a monogamous relationship were infected by their spouse. This is clearly evident now with the increase of HIV infections among married women.
Knowledge of and the use of a condom is necessary in relationships!
Seventy five percent of the world population infected with HIV is heterosexual.
Fifty percent of all HIV infections are women. The proportion of adults living with HIV/AIDS who are women has been steadily increasing. AIDS now ranks as one of the leading causes of death among women aged 20 to 40 in several cities in Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and North America!
Studies show that anal sex is common throughout the world and in some countries 60% of adults practice anal sex.
Condom usage is lower for heterosexual anal sex compared to vaginal sex.
Many men who have sex with men do not define themselves as gay. More and more women are being infected with HIV through sexual intercourse with their male partner, unaware their partner is bisexual!
Responsible sexual conduct means using a condom and if this is not being taught then many more people will be infected with HIV.
Around the world the use of condoms is seen as a trusted weapon in the prevention of HIV infection, however, these efforts are often hampered by religious beliefs.
We will not see change in the HIV/AIDS pandemic until the use of Condoms are a standard practice for all!
Bradford McIntyre, HIV+ since 1984
Vancouver, Canada

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posted March 17, 2009 at 8:20 pm

A: I don’t doubt that many folks in all parts of the world are treated by Catholic charities. If indeed those condoms are available by the bucket full in Africa and are being rejected due to what you discribe as cultural reasons,would part of those reasons be the RCC teachings while they are making converts? My guess would be that the Catholic populations you mention that are having lower rates of HIV/Aids are probably using condoms….(against the rules). IMO that would be the “something right.” I don’t think they’re all being abstinent.

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Courage Philippines

posted March 18, 2009 at 8:44 am

I believe that the Pope is right. Condoms give the signal to our morally corrupt society that it’s okay to have sex with anyone, anytime, and anywhere. It sends the message that anyone can engage in fornication and adultery as it promises to give “protection” from STDs and AIDS.
The humanization of sexuality makes a lot of sense. If you know the intent and true purpose of one’s sexuality according to the laws of God, you will abstain from having sex until you get married. And that’s what the Catholic Church has been teaching us all along! Are we too dumb not to get it or are we simply too hardheaded to accept it?
The contraceptive mentality reduces the sexual act to mere sexual enjoyment without accompanying responsibility and oh how we love that!
But look at the consequence of such acts! Worse, the belief that condoms can prevent HIV transmission may not be true at all times as there are studies suggesting that the virus can pass through some tiny holes in the condom itself. How’s that for protection and peace of mind?

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Courage Philippines

posted March 18, 2009 at 8:47 am

The Pope has moral authority on this matter and he knows what he is talking about. He is a highly intelligent human being. I’m not saying that our personal opinions on the matter don’t count, but a person of his stature and dignity, coupled with his gift of infallibility on matters of faith and morals makes his statement authoritative.

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Jim Pickett

posted March 18, 2009 at 12:17 pm

There are no studies that show the HIV virus can pass through an intact condom. That is bull. And sorry, NO ONE has the moral authority to condemn millions of people to death.

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Your Name

posted March 18, 2009 at 12:34 pm

“Condoms make AIDS epidemic worse”???
Isn’t bearing false witness a sin anymore?

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Your Name

posted March 18, 2009 at 12:41 pm

“Condoms give the signal to our morally corrupt society that it’s okay to have sex with anyone, anytime, and anywhere.”
False hyperbole. The only ‘signal’ condoms give is, “If you use me correctly, you will reduce the chances of either getting a disease or creating an unwanted pregnancy by close to 98%.”
People already believe they can have sex with anyone, anytime, and anywhere. Which is why ‘preaching’ against using contraceptives is a 100% failure – people will not abstain. Neither of the Palin women did before they got marrie … oops, one didn’t even bother doing that.
How NOT using them promises to give anyone “protection” from STDs and AIDS escapes me.
Yours is a false and dangerous and costly belief, courage man.

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Gerard Nadal

posted March 18, 2009 at 1:08 pm

“Any science to back up the pope’s claims?”
Happy Feast of St. Patrick! I’m taking off my Catholic Hat and putting on my Microbiologist hat for a few moments. We’ll only use Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data and common sense to see where the Pope’s position takes us. The following link is to a CDC page that gives efficacy rates for the various contraceptives.
From this page:
“Male condoms are 85–98% effective at preventing pregnancy.”
Given that range, let’s take the average efficiency-91.5% and use that with the extreme ends of the CDC efficacy, 85% and 98%. We’ll consider condom failure rates of 15%, 8.5%, and 2%.
As of 2007, there were 22,000,000 men, women, and children in sub-Saharan Africa with HIV/AIDS. 1,800,000 of these are children, age 15 and under. This leaves us with 20,200,000 adults with HIV/AIDS.
Many may be too ill to have sex. So, let’s be very liberal and assume that in a given year 25% of HIV+ Africans have no sex at all. That leaves 15,000,000 who are sexually active. If every one of those 15,000,000 had sex ONCE A YEAR and used a condom, then the number of condom failure events in HIV+ Africans would be as follows:
@2% Failure Rate: 15,000,000 x .02 = 300,000 Condom Failures
@8.5% Failure Rate: 15,000,000 x .085 = 1,275,000 Condom Failures
@15% Failure Rate: 15,000,000 x .15 = 2,250,000 Condom Failures
Now let’s assume that each of those people has sex ONCE PER MONTH, using a condom every time. The number of failure events at each % Failure rate above is multiplied by twelve.
@2% Failure Rate: 300,000 x12 = 3,600,000 Condom Failures
@8.5% Failure Rate: 1,275,000 x 12 = 15,300,000 Condom Failures
@15% Failure Rate: 2,250,000 x 12 = 27,000,000 Condom Failures
Any volunteers to be on the receiving end of just one of those failures?
Thus, using CDC’s own numbers, eliminating ¼ of all HIV+ Africans from sexual activity and doing the math, the number of condom failure events in which virus may be transmitted is staggering. To be certain, male to female and female to male transmission rates vary. So does the viral load in seminal and vaginal secretions, based on where the patient is in the infectious process. Offsetting some of those factors are the high Sexually Transmitted Infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa that produce ulcerations which act as portals of entry for viruses that may exist in low titers.
This little experiment produced absurdly LOW numbers. It would not be unreasonable to expect the number of sex acts per person to be much higher than once per month. It is likely that more than ¾ of HIV+ Africans have sex in a given year.
As a Microbiologist, of course I see that condoms slow the transmission rate for HIV in a given sex act. But in the aggregate, I question whether the sense of security leads to far more sex acts, which multiplies the chances for a failure event.
CDC has the following fact sheet on male latex condoms:
“Condoms and STDs: Fact Sheet for Public Health Personnel”
From the Fact Sheet Introductory Paragraph:
“Consistent and correct use of male latex condoms can reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of STD transmission. To achieve the maximum protective effect, condoms must be used both consistently and correctly. Inconsistent use can lead to STD acquisition because transmission can occur with a single act of intercourse with an infected partner. Similarly, if condoms are not used correctly, the protective effect may be diminished even when they are used consistently.”
The final half of the paragraph sounds somewhat like it could have been written by the Pope:
“The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.”
Catholics would call that abstinence before, and fidelity during marriage.

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