Vatican calms escalating storm over pope’’s comments on HIV, condoms

March 19th, 2009 - 3:34 pm ICT by ANI  

Rome, Mar.19 (ANI): The Vatican has moved quickly to calm feelings aroused by Pope Benedict XVIs comments on HIV and the use of condoms ahead of his visit to Cameroon and Angola,
The Pope said that the “scourge” of HIV could be made worse, not better, by the distribution of condoms.
France, Germany and Belgium criticized his message as irresponsible, while the UNAIDS agency said condoms were a vital part of the battle against HIV, which infects more than 7,000 people a day, reports The Guardian.
The Vatican sought to defuse the row, explaining that the pope wanted to emphasise responsible sexual conduct. It sought to tweak his original remarks in a version posted on the Holy See’’s website.
According to journalists present, he originally said AIDS “cannot be overcome with the distribution of condoms which, on the contrary, increase the problem”.
But in the Vatican’’s version, his words became: “The scourge cannot be resolved with the distribution of prophylactics; on the contrary, the risk is of increasing the problem.”
Such semantics were lost on the French government, which despite its Catholic roots, rejected the papal view.
Eric Chevallier, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry, said in an online briefing: “France voices extremely sharp concern over the consequences of Benedict XVI’’s comments. While it is not up to us to pass judgment on church doctrine, we consider that such comments are a threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life.”
Laurette Onkelinx, Belgium’’s health minister, said the pope’’s comments reflected “a dangerous doctrinaire vision”.
In Berlin, German health minister Ulla Schmidt and development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul criticized the pope’’s remarks in a joint statement and underlined the importance of condom use in developing nations.
“Condoms save lives, in Europe as well as on other continents,” the ministers said.
Direct criticism of the Vatican from foreign governments is rare and reflects the strength of feeling against the pope’’s comments.
More than two-thirds 67 percent of the world’’s HIV sufferers live in sub-Saharan Africa and three-quarters of all AIDS deaths in 2007 took place there.
UN figures from 2007 show that more than five percent of adults among Cameroon’’s estimated 18.9 million population have the disease.
Aids campaigners in Cameroon reacted strongly to the pope’’s comments. Alain Fogue, a spokesman for Mocpat, a group campaigning for access to treatment for sufferers, said the pontiff was out of touch with the modern world, questioning whether he lived in the 21st century.
Michel Kazatchkine, the head of the Global Fund Aids charity, urged the pope to retract his comments. (ANI)

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