Doctrinal Dilemma a Blessing to HIV Prevention Efforts

Pope’s comments condoning condoms to combat HIV use sparks debate

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The International AIDS Society (IAS) has called for the Pope and the Catholic Church to support all evidence-based methods of HIV prevention, including condom use.

The request arrives in the wake of Pope Benedict’s XVI’s claim that condom use is acceptable in “certain instances,” a proclamation that has rocked the Catholic Church as it seemingly helps pave the way for use of the prophylactics among some congregants.

“Once you make a small concession like this it's like taking a brick out of the Berlin Wall,” said Gabriel Dolan, an Irish priest who works among the poor in AIDS-stricken Mombasa, Kenya.

The Church’s ban on the use of condoms, and all prophylactics, for contraceptive purposes remains, however.

By implying that condom use should be prohibited except in certain instances (such as by prostitutes), the Pope “is ignoring scientific evidence that shows that both male and female condoms, used correctly and consistently, can reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV by 80 to 90 percent,” according to IAS, the world's leading independent association of HIV professionals with more than 19,000 members from more than 190 countries.

IAS President Elly Katabira said there is still a long way to go in convincing the church that condom use is key to the elimination of the HIV virus, which claims 2 million lives every year. 

STDs caused by viruses, such as HIV, cannot be cured.  STDs caused by bacteria or parasites can be treated with antibiotics or other medicines.

HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex or by sharing drug needles with an infected person. Initial symptoms of the disease can include swollen glands and flu-like symptoms with more severe symptoms not appearing for months or years after infection occurs.

Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, have been shown to reduce instances of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS; Chlamydia; Gonorrhea and Syphilis, among others.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 23, 2010
Last Updated:
November 24, 2010