Vatican defends pope condoms stand, criticism mounts

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.

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