This week, comments by Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican have captured the world’s attention and brought a much-needed spotlight to condom use and HIV prevention.
In comments released Saturday, Pope Benedict seemed to indicate that the use of condoms may be morally acceptable in some cases to prevent the spread of AIDS.
“There could be single cases that can be justified, for instance when a prostitute uses a condom, and this can be a first step towards a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, to develop again the awareness of the fact that not all is allowed and that one cannot do everything one wants,” Benedict said.
A second statement was released by the Vatican today in an attempt to clarify the Pope’s intent. As the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters today, he “personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” and the Pope seemed to suggest that there was not.
“He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship . . . This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point.”
While the comments have inspired a wide range of reactions from the global health, religious, and political communities, the news was well-received by at least one organization working to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and promote sexual and reproductive rights and health. Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice issued the following statement on the recent comments:
“We are delighted that the pope has acknowledged that condoms can help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections including HIV. It is a marvelous victory for common sense and reason and a major step forward towards recognizing that condom use can play a vital role in reducing the future impact of the HIV pandemic.”
And IWHC partner Catholics for the Right to Decide– Peru said the following in a recent press release:
“Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir- Perú, organización comprometida con la promoción y defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, desde un catolicismo renovador, valora positivamente las declaraciones del Papa como inicio de un reconocimiento de la realidad actual.”
Which roughly translates to:
“Catholics for The Right to Decide—Peru, an organization committed to the promotion and protection of sexual and reproductive rights from a Catholic perspective, welcomes the Pope’s statements as the beginning of a recognition of the actual reality.”
IWHC will continue to work towards providing women and young people with the complete range of information, skills, and strategies to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS, including advocating for a focus on increasing procurement and distribution of condoms, and particularly female condoms, the only available woman-initiated method of HIV prevention.
Click here to learn more about IWHC’s work to promote and protect sexual and reproductive rights and health.
To learn more about our work around female condoms, click here.