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Africa
Pope: Condoms could worsen Aids
Pontiff embarks on Africa tour saying condoms can increase the spread of HIV.
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2009 16:56 GMT
The pope's visit is seeking to draw international attention to Africa's problems [AFP]

The Roman Catholic pope has come under renewed criticism after saying that condoms are not the solution to Africa's HIV epidemic.

Pope Benedict XVI made the remarks as he started a seven-day tour of the continent on Tuesday.

An estimated 22 million people in Africa have HIV, the virus that leads to Aids.

Three-quarters of all Aids deaths in 2007 were in sub-Saharan Africa.

"You can't resolve it [Aids] with the distribution of condoms," the pope said. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

It is the first time that Benedict has addressed the issues of condom use. Pope John Paul II, his predecessor, often said that sexual abstinence - not condoms - was the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Moral attitude

In his comments, the pope promoted a responsible and moral attitude towards sex.

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"The only solution is two-fold," he said. "The first is a humanisation of sexuality, a human, spiritual renewal which brings with it a friendship, especially for those who are suffering, a willingness to make personal sacrifices."

The Catholic Church rejects the use of condoms as part of its teaching against artificial contraception.

Senior Vatican officials have advocated abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within.

The late Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who lead the Vatican's pontifical council for the family, said in 2003 that condoms may help spread Aids through a false sense of security.

Rebecca Hodes, head of policy for the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa's city of Capetown, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday they were "extremely angered and saddened by this ill-considered response from the pope".

"We know, based on over the 10-year experience of preventing and treating HIV in South Africa, that condoms are one of the only evidence-based means of preventing HIV available to us in Africa," she said.

Some Cameroonians said the pope's view on condoms is an ideal for the church [AFP]
"There is very little evidence to support abstinence-only education campaigns as a means of preventing HIV. Condoms work in preventing HIV."

She said the pope's statement was likely to "sow confusion and to fly in the face of messages coming from states which are trying to prevent new infections among their citizens".

"It is likely ultimately to lead to new infections because people will not stop having sex; instead they will stop having protected sex because of the pope's message."

'Church ideal'

Some priests and nuns working with those infected with the virus question the church's opposition to condoms. Many ordinary Africans do as well.

Narcisse Takou, a teacher working in the Cameroon capital where the pope started his tour, said: "Talking about the non-use of condoms is out of place. We need condoms to protect ourselves against diseases and Aids."

Stanley Obale Okpu, a civil servant working in the ministry of urban development in Cameroon, said: "What the pope says is an ideal for the Catholic church.

"But he needs to look at the realities on the ground. One should be aware of these realities. In the case of Cameroon - and Africa as a whole - condoms are very necessary... You need condoms to prevent Aids and birth control."

Upon arrival in Yaounde, the pope was greeted by Paul Biya, the country's president, as well as thousands of flag-waving faithful.

He will later travel to Angola on a tour that aims to raise awareness of Africa's key problems - famine, poverty and armed conflict.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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