March 18, 2009
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) admonished the Pope for his claim that condoms were not a solution to the AIDS epidemic, but were instead part of the problem. In remarks to a group of reporters en route to Africa for Pope Benedict's first official visit to the continent since his elevation to the Papacy, Pope Benedict said that AIDS, "...is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."
"Governments are obligated to follow scientific evidence in order to set up effective public health policies to fight AIDS and not rely on religious beliefs like the one Pope Benedict is promoting," said Dr. Jorge Saavedra, Chief of Global Affairs for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "One day, maybe one hundred years from now, the Catholic Church is going to apologize for these kind of statements the same way they did several hundred years after the Inquisition and half a century after the Holocaust."
"Some governments, as well as families, will follow the Pope's directive and literally people will die, leaving more orphans. Surely that is not God's plan," said Terri Ford, Senior Director of Global Policy for AHF. "As the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict certainly has the right express his opposition to the use of condoms on moral grounds, but when he deliberately distorts widely-recognized and respected scientific findings about the efficacy of condoms in slowing the spread of the AIDS virus, he creates unnecessary impediments in the global fight against the epidemic, and people will die. The Pope must be reminded that those kinds of statements cost lives."
"The Pope should be offering constructive real world solutions to the global AIDS epidemic and not distracting us from the single most effective prevention tool we have today: condoms," said Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Director of AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Public Health Division. "The single greatest risk factor for a woman in Africa for HIV infection today is for her to simply be married. Condoms can cost as little as three cents a piece. If the Vatican truly wants to contribute in the global fight against AIDS, it should offer more constructive input and solutions. For those of us in the fight against AIDS every day, we simply cannot rely on such old world thinking in managing this 21st century epidemic."