Pope considers allowing use of condoms
ROME: Pope Benedict is considering whether to allow Catholics to wear a condom to protect themselves from AIDS, Vatican experts said yesterday.
At the request of the Pope, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has submitted a 200-page study on Pastoral Aspects of the Treatment of Infectious Diseases
"In keeping with the Holy Father's wish, we have carried out a careful study on the use of condoms, both from the scientific as well as the moral point of view, and we have submitted it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," the cardinal told a press conference.
Vatican experts say the study is seen as a potential opening towards the use of condoms, which are strictly forbidden under current church rules.
Luigi Accattoli, a Vatican expert for Corriere della Sera
, says the church could decide to allow the use of prophylactics by married couples when one partner is HIV-positive, and in areas affected by the pandemic.
A number of cardinals have suggested that condoms may represent "the lesser evil" in such extreme cases. Although strongly conservative on doctrinal matters, Benedict is believed to be extremely concerned about the spread of AIDS, which is estimated to kill 8000 people a day around the world.
The United Nations released its annual report on the spread of the disease on Tuesday. It said AIDS is spreading with worrisome signs of resurgence in some countries that were trumpeted as successes in combating it. But the prevalence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, among young people has declined in eight African countries, showing that prevention efforts can work.
"Even limited resources can give high returns when investments are focused on reaching people most at risk and adapted to changing national epidemics," said Dr Paul De Lay of the UN's AIDS program. Overall, prevention efforts have reached far too few people at risk, such as gay men, prostitutes, injecting drug users and members of minority groups.
An estimated 39.5 million people are now living with HIV, the report said. Of that total 4.3 million became infected this year. There have been 2.9 million AIDS deaths in 2006, the highest number reported in any year. The comparable figures in 2004 were 36.9 million living with HIV, 3.9 million new infections and 2.7 million deaths.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, infection rates have risen by more than 50 per cent since 2004. The number of new infections in the US has remained stable at 40,000. In China, official media reported that HIV/AIDS cases have grown by nearly 30 per cent this year.