Editorials, Opinion Pieces Respond to Pope's Statement on Condoms, HIV/AIDS

Newspapers recently published editorials and opinion pieces responding to Pope Benedict XVI's recent statement that condom distribution will not curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Summaries appear below.


  • Seattle Times: "The Catholic Church's opposition to birth control, including condoms, is well known," but Benedict "does significant damage by criticizing condom distribution in the battle against HIV/AIDS," a Times editorial says. It says that condoms "have greatly diminished the spread of the disease," adding, "That the pope would denounce condoms while heading to the continent most affected by the epidemic is unfortunate." The editorial concludes that Benedict's "remarks matter because in many religious communities, the question of how to respond to the devastation of AIDS is weighed against opposition to condoms. But the reality is that until this deadly scourge is wiped out, all tools, including condoms, are necessary" (Seattle Times, 3/19).

  • Toronto Star: When Benedict "chose the occasion of his first papal visit to Africa to declare that condoms cannot stop the spread of HIV/AIDS that is devastating the continent," he "stunned health workers and AIDS experts who understand that condoms are a vital tool in a broader strategy of promoting safer sexual behaviors," a Star editorial states. The editorial continues that the pope "did not misspeak when he argued that condoms are the problem, not the solution," adding that Benedict "has long demonized condom use as an AIDS prevention strategy." The editorial asks, "But what of the millions of married women whose partners are HIV carriers, and whose lives could be spared by condoms that, with proper use, could protect them from infection?" (Toronto Star, 3/19).

Opinion Pieces

  • Roland Martin, CNN.com: Although the Roman Catholic Church has "long been opposed to the use of condoms and other forms of birth control," it is "mindboggling" that church officials "continue to ignore the definitive research that condoms play a huge role in decreasing the spread of HIV/AIDS" and sexually-transmitted infections, syndicated columnist Martin writes in an opinion piece. According to Martin, although abstinence is "the only surefire way of stopping HIV/AIDS," the "reality" is that "[p]eople are having sex." Therefore, the "refusal of the Catholic Church and other religious denominations to accept the reality of the situation on the ground is doing nothing for the issue," Martin writes. He concludes, "If the church used its powerful voice -- while continuing to speak out against sex outside of marriage -- to also implore people to practice safe sex, it could have a major impact on slowing the spread of the disease" (Martin, CNN.com, 3/18).

  • Kerry Whiteside, Globe and Mail: The pope's comments that condoms cannot curb the spread of HIV/AIDS are "misleading and very irresponsible," particularly because sexual intercourse "is not the only way to contract HIV/AIDS, nor do many women in developing countries have the choice of consent," Whiteside, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, writes in Globe and Mail letter to the editor. Although HIV/AIDS advocates "agree with the concept that abstinence is the best way" to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission, "in reality, many Canadians are having sex, and condoms are the best way to protect yourself if you are sexually active," Whiteside writes. She concludes that such "controversies consistently point to the fact that the only long-term, sustainable solution to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a vaccine developed through research (Whiteside, Globe and Mail, 3/18).

  • George Curry, Philadelphia Inquirer: Although many people "disagree" with the pope and his assertion that condoms could make the epidemic worse are "dangerous," Benedict's "willingness to even mention the C-word should be applauded," Inquirer columnist Curry writes in an opinion piece. Curry writes, "Our unease about sex education for young people -- and our failure to openly and honestly discuss condom use -- is killing us." He continues that recent studies have demonstrated that many U.S. youth are sexually active, and therefore "we must move swiftly to protect young people by encouraging them to use protection when they have sex." Curry concludes, "If we're going to continue to make progress in the fight against AIDS, we need to be more open about the value of using condoms. However uncomfortable it may make us, we must place saving lives ahead of our discomfort" (Curry, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/19).

  • Bonnie Erbe, "Thomas Jefferson Street Blog," U.S. News & World Report: If the pope is interested in learning about HIV/AIDS in Africa, he should "read the widespread literature about women and how they acquire the disease," Erbe writes in U.S. News & World Report's "Thomas Jefferson Street Blog." According to Erbe, the percentage of HIV-positive women who are commercial sex workers or injection drug users is "dwarfed by the percentage who are married women living upstanding lives in their communities." These women often are married to men who might be older, have multiple sexual partners and refuse to use condoms, Erbe writes. However, Benedict showed "no sympathy for wives whose husbands have AIDS" and showed "no understanding of the terrible lives these women endure, or the damage done to their children, many of whom are born HIV-positive," Erbe writes. She concludes, "A less compassionate or understanding view of their situation than his is hard to fathom" (Erbe, "Thomas Jefferson Street Blog," U.S. News & World Report, 3/18).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2009 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.