As World AIDS Day approaches, Pope Benedict XVI’s comments that condom use in certain situations to prevent the transmission of HIV is acceptable has been welcomed by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) as the beginning of a shift in the Vatican’s previously hard-line stance on condom use.
Rachael Le Mesurier, NZAF Executive Director says: “The Pope’s comments are important as it shows the Vatican recognises that condoms do prevent HIV. Abstinence-only approaches to HIV prevention are not in step with the reality of life for more than 1.1 billion Catholics in New Zealand and around the world. This is the first sign we have had that the Vatican is aware of the real need for condom use to prevent the HIV epidemic.”
The Pope conceded that condoms can reduce the rate of HIV infection in an interview with a German journalist, in a book to be released this week. The book’s release coincides with World AIDS Day, marked globally on 1 December. However, the Pope was also quoted saying that a more humane approach to sexuality, and not condom use, was the best way of tackling HIV infection. The Pope used an example of a male prostitute using a condom to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
Rachael adds: “This is a significant step and we would like to see it followed quickly by a stronger message that recognises that condom use is proven to be the best and most efficient way to prevent HIV.
“The Pope has a powerful platform, and we continue to hope that he will use it to spread the message that safe sex will reduce the transmission of HIV – especially at this time when World AIDS Day highlights the devastating impact the epidemic has had on communities in New Zealand and around the world.”
The Vatican has since downplayed the Pope’s comments, saying that they were not “revolutionary”.