UST THEOLOGIANS defended Pope Benedict XVI’s statement in Africa that condoms are not the solution to the AIDS menace.

“The Pope is simply being consistent with the teachings of the Church – life is always paramount,” UST Faculty of Sacred Theology Dean Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P. told the Varsitarian. “Pope Benedict XVI wanted to point out that you cannot solve a moral problem by technology but through moral responsibility.”

“Technology doesn’t really change people,” Aligan added.

The Pope reiterated the Church’s long-standing opposition to safe sex as a remedy to the AIDS epidemic last March 17 during his African trip. While en route to Cameroon, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters aboard his plane that “the problem (AIDS) cannot be overcome by distributing condoms.”

He said “spiritual and human awakening” and “friendship to those who suffer” are the solutions.

The Pontiff also said that the best way to fight AIDS was to follow the Church’s teachings on “correct and moral human behaviour.”

Leslie Ramsammy, Guyana’s health minister and World Health Assembly president, said in a news conference that “the statement by the Pope is inconsistent with science, it’s inconsistent with our experiences and it is not in sync with what Catholics have experienced and believe.”

The French Foreign Ministry said that the Pope’s statement was “a threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life.”

Jon O’Brien, president of the pro-abortion and pro-population control US organization Catholics for Choice, said that condoms “are an absolutely vital measure that people must have if they are to protect themselves and their partners and stem the spread of the virus.”

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A convenient solution

But an AIDS expert of Harvard University in the US supported the Pope.

In an opinion article published by the Washington Post, Edward C. Green, director of AIDS Prevention Research Project in Harvard, wrote that “in truth, current empirical evidence (on Africa) supports (the Pope).”

Green cited the 2003 study of Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California that “found no evidence of condoms working as a primary HIV-prevention measure in Africa.” He added the UN AIDS organization has “quietly disowned the study.” Since then, several articles in peer-reviewed science journals, said Green, “have confirmed that condoms have not worked as a primary intervention in the population-wide epidemics of Africa.”

In a 2008 article in the Science Journal, Green wrote, 10 AIDS experts concluded that “consistent condom use has not reached a sufficiently high level, even after many years of widespread and often aggressive promotion, to produce a measurable showing of new infections in the generalized epidemics of sub-Saharan Africa.”

What has worked in Africa, according to Green, are “stategies that break up multiple and concurrent sexual networks – or, in plain language, faithful mutual monogamy.”

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