YAOUNDE, (Reuters) – The Vatican yesterday defended Pope Benedict’s opposition to the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS as activists, doctors and politicians criticised it as unrealistic, unscientific and dangerous.
Benedict, arriving in Africa, said on Tuesday that condoms “increase the problem” of AIDS. The comment, made to reporters aboard his plane, caused a worldwide firestorm of criticism.
“My reaction is that this represents a major step backwards in terms of global health education, is entirely counter-productive, and is likely to lead to increases in HIV infection in Africa and elsewhere,” said Prof Quentin Sattentau, Professor of Immunology at Britain’s Oxford University.
“There is a large body of published evidence demonstrating that condom use reduces the risk of acquiring HIV infection, but does not lead to increased sexual activity,” he said.
The Church teaches that fidelity within heterosexual marriage and abstinence are the best ways to stop AIDS.
Asked about the criticism, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope was “maintaining the position of his predecessors”.
The Vatican also says condoms can also lead to risky behaviour but many contest that view.
Kevin De Cock, director of the World Health Organisation’s HIV/AIDS department, said there is no scientific evidence showing that condom use spurs people to take more sexual risks.