Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pope faces backlash for condom remarks

Courtesy of the National Post:

Spain to send one million contraceptive devices to Africa
Philip Pullella, Reuters Published: Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Pope faced worldwide criticism yesterday as scientists, activists and countries, including his native Germany, called his opposition to condoms to stop the spread of AIDS as unrealistic and dangerous.
Pope Benedict, arriving in Africa on Tuesday, said condoms "increase the problem" of AIDS.
"My reaction is that this represents a major step backwards in terms of global health education, is entirely counterproductive, and is likely to lead to increases in HIV infection in Africa and elsewhere," said 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.
Germany, which had criticized the Pope last month over his decision to lift the excommunication of a Holocaustdenying bishop, argued that condoms played a decisive role in saving lives in the fight against AIDS.
"Modern development cooperation must give access to the means for family planning to the poorest of the poor. And the use of condoms is especially part of that," Germany's health and development ministers said in a joint statement.
"Anything else would be irresponsible," they added.
France expressed "very strong concern," saying the remarks "put in danger public health policy".
Belgium called the Pope's comments "dangerous doctrinaire vision," while the Dutch government said they were "extremely harmful."
Spain announced it was sending one million condoms to Africa.
The Catholic Church teaches 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."
Kevin De Cock, director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS department, said there was no scientific evidence showing that condom use spurred people to take more sexual risks.
"The guidance we give is that condoms are highly [effective] to prevent the transmission of HIV if they are used correctly and consistently."
Mr. De Cock said abstinence and reducing the number of partners were also needed and praised faith-based groups, noting that many Catholic charities provide treatment for people with the virus in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the world.
HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, infects 33 million people globally and has killed 25 million. Two-thirds of those infected are in Africa, analysts say.
"Anything that reduces AIDS on a depressed continent like Africa should be welcomed," said Adeleke Agbola, a lawyer in Nigeria, the continent's most populous nation.

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