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Saturday, June 4, 2011

UNAIDS to Vatican: Pope's HIV-Condom View Helpful

At a Roman Catholic Church-sponsored conference on HIV prevention and care in Vatican City, the head of UNAIDS told attendees condoms are “integral and essential” in the fight against AIDS.

The Catholic Church does not support condom use, as part of its longstanding opposition against artificial contraception. But in a book published last year, “Light of the World,” Pope Benedict XVI said that a male prostitute who intends to use a condom could be taking a greater step toward responsibility by protecting the welfare of his partner.

“This is very important,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Michel Sidibe. “This has helped me to understand his position better and has opened up a new space for dialogue.”

Sidibe noted that the AIDS community and the church have been guilty of “talking over” one another and not working together. Benedict’s statements open up the possibility for greater cooperation, he said, particularly in expanding access to antiretroviral treatment for the world’s poor. “Yes, there are areas where we disagree and we must continue to listen, to reflect and to talk together about them. But there are many more areas where we share common cause,” he said.

The fact that Sidibe was asked to speak is significant, given that the Vatican typically invites only like-minded outsiders to its conferences. Vatican officials, however, did not reference Benedict’s remarks on condoms. Monsignor Zygmunt Zimowski, head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, which hosted the conference, echoed Pope John Paul II and talked of the “crisis of values” behind the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The Friends of AIDS Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for HIV positive individuals and empowering people to make healthy choices to prevent the spread of the HIV virus. To learn more about The Friends of AIDS Foundation, please visit: