Pope to World: You go to hell or you die…Posted: March 17, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI said on his way to Africa Tuesday that condoms were not the answer in the continent’s fight against HIV, his first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients.
Benedict had never directly addressed condom use. He has said that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against AIDS. The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of the disease.
“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon, where he will begin a seven-day pilgrimage on the continent. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”
About 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS. In 2007, three-quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide were there, as well as two-thirds of all people living with HIV.
Rebecca Hodes with the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa said if the pope is serious about preventing new HIV infections, he will focus on promoting wide access to condoms and spreading information on how best to use them.
“Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans,” said Hodes, director of policy, communication and research for the action campaign.
While she said the pope is correct that condoms are not the sole solution to Africa’s AIDS epidemic, she said they are one of the very few HIV prevention mechanisms proven to work.
Even some priests and nuns working with those living with HIV/AIDS question the church’s opposition to condoms amid the pandemic ravaging Africa.