Medical journal says Pope distorting condom facts

LONDON, (Reuters) – A prestigious medical journal yesterday accused Pope Benedict of distorting scientific  evidence to promote Catholic doctrine by saying that condoms  increase the spread of AIDS.

The Lancet in an editorial called on the Pope to retract the  comments made last week, saying anything less would be an  immense disservice to the public and health advocates fighting  to contain the disease.

“When any influential person, be it a religious or political  leader, makes a false scientific statement that could be  devastating to the health of millions of people, they should  retract or correct the public record,” the editorial said.

“By saying that condoms exacerbate the problem of HIV/AIDS,  the Pope has publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote  Catholic doctrine on the issue.”

During his first visit to Africa, the Pope told reporters  that AIDS is a problem that “cannot be overcome by the  distribution of condoms; on the contrary, they increase it.”

The comment ignited a firestorm of criticism from health  officials, activists and politicians who criticised that view as  unrealistic, unscientific and dangerous.

The Church teaches that fidelity within heterosexual  marriage and abstinence are the best ways to stop AIDS. The  Vatican also says condoms can lead to risky behaviour but many  contest that view.

Health experts say there is no scientific evidence showing  that condom use spurs people to take more sexual risks and in  fact studies show that condom use reduces the risk of acquiring  HIV infection.

The AIDS virus infects an estimated 33 million people  globally, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, and has killed 25  million. There is no cure.

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