Pope Benedict on Africa Trip Condoms 'Increase the Problem' of AIDS

As he made his way to Africa on Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI declared that condoms were not the way to fight HIV/AIDS. Speaking to reporters on his flight to Cameroon he said that they"increase the problem."

Pope Benedict XVI has broken his silence on condoms, saying they are not the answer to fighting HIV/AIDS. On his way to Africa on Tuesday the pope made his first explicit statement on an issue that has divided Catholics across the world.

Pope Benedict XVI before departing for Cameroon on Tuesday.

Pope Benedict XVI before departing for Cameroon on Tuesday.

The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of AIDS and Pope Benedict reiterated that stance. "You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," he told reporters aboard the Alitalia flight to Cameroon. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

However, this is not necessarily a view shared by all members of the clergy, with some priests and nuns who work with those living with HIV/AIDS having questioned the church's stance. About 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to the United Nations. Medical workers advocate the use of condoms to stop the disease from spreading.

Rebecca Hodes, director of policy, communication and research at the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, hit out at the pope's words, saying that if he was serious about fighting HIV he would promote wide access to condoms. "His opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans," Hodes told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Benedict's first papal trip to Africa takes him to both Cameroon and Angola and he said he intends to make an appeal for "international solidarity" for Africa in the face of the global economic downturn.

--smd with wire reports


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