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AIDS Advocates Call Late Pope's Opposition to Condom Use Obstacle in Fight Against Disease

April 5, 2005

Some AIDS advocates in Africa have said that the late Pope John Paul II's opposition to condom use was a "major obstacle" in the fight against the disease, AFP/Khaleej Times reports (AFP/Khaleej Times, 4/5). The pope -- whose tenure lasted from 1978 until his death on Saturday -- in 1988 said that the use of contraceptives was "intrinsically illicit," adding, "No personal or social circumstances could ever, can now or will ever render such an act lawful in itself," according to AFP/Yahoo! News (AFP/Yahoo! News, 4/4). The pope in January reiterated the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to the use of condoms, saying that "respect of the sacred value of life and formation about the correct practice of sexuality" is the church's position on the issue (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/24). On March 11, the pope said, "Fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside are the only sure ways to limit the further spread of AIDS." Some AIDS advocates said the pope's view of homosexuality as "immoral" and his "conservatism" on women's rights, as well as his opposition to condoms, were "bleak failures" in the fight against HIV/AIDS, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. Although the pope called for support for people who are ill with AIDS-related diseases and "pleaded" for help for AIDS orphans, some AIDS advocates on Monday said that his opposition to condoms and women's empowerment might "even have helped propagate HIV," according to AFP/Yahoo! News (AFP/Yahoo! News, 4/4).

Advocates' Comments
"We understand the position of the church, but you have to face reality," Attaher Maiga, a member of Mali's National AIDS High Council, said, adding, "There isn't an alternative. The use of condoms is one of the solutions to fight the spread of HIV" (AFP/Kaleej Times, 4/5). Khalil Elouardighi, a member of the group ACT UP/Paris, said, "We mourn for the eight million Catholics who have died of AIDS and worry for the more than 10 million Catholics who are infected" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 4/4). Nathan Geffen, a spokesperson for the South African HIV/AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign, said he hopes "the new pope will have an attitude much more progressive and less conservative regarding the utilization of condoms and practice of contraception" (AFP/Khaleej Times, 4/5).

Media Coverage
Several NPR programs reported on the Catholic church's position on the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission:

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