Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pope Benedict says condoms actually increase spread of HIV in Africa

Two AP stories today by Victor L. Simpson report the continued opposition of the Vatican to the use of condoms, even to control the spread of HIV in Africa,

Previously German born Benedict XVI had never spoken explicitly on condom use. But now he is insisting that abstinence, rather than condom use, is the only morally acceptable way to control STD’s.

Abstinence is a difficult sell in African cultures that do not regard teens as “men” until they have fathered children, they say. This also makes a celibate priesthood less credible in some areas.

The main story appeared March 15 and the link is here.

On Wednesday, March 18, the Washington Post, on p A09, ran a shorter Simpson AP story “Pope says condoms worsen HIV problem”, link here.

Now 22 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, mostly through heterosexual contact. The presence of other untreated STD’s is thought to have amplified the epidemic through heterosexual transmission after about 1980, once unbanization of Africa had taken hold. HIV is thought to have been present in Africa since early in the 20th Century, however. However it may have undergone mutations in the mid 20th Century that led previous primate diseases to infect humans more readily, or contact with primates could have started the epidemic.

Washington DC has seen an explosion of HIV within the city, and the epidemiology is beginning to resemble the African pattern.

Update: March 29, 2009 Edward C. Green has an article on p A15 of the Washington Post today, "The Pope May Be Right", link here. Green makes an argument about "risk compensation" which says that if behavior is made safer but is still risky, people will engage in it. In some parts of Africa, he says, the "risk compensation" argument is more relevant to heterosexuals than it had been in the West for gay men before.

Picture: Near Fredericksburg, VA (not Africa)

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