European Union Rejects Vatican’s Claim That Condoms Do Not Prevent HIV Infection
The European Union on Monday issued a "sharply-worded" communique criticizing Vatican officials' recent statements that condoms do not protect against HIV transmission, saying that such statements are not based on science and could worsen the HIV/AIDS pandemic, AP/Yahoo! News reports (AP/Yahoo! News, 10/21). Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, said in an episode of BBC1's "Panorama" program, titled "Sex and the Holy City," which aired on Oct. 12, "The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom. These margins of uncertainty ... should represent an obligation on the part of the health ministries and all these campaigns to act in the same way as they do with regard to cigarettes, which they state to be a danger." The Vatican, which is opposed to artificial contraception, has consistently refused to encourage the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/15). Although the communique did not mention the Vatican or its officials, it was "clearly aimed" at refuting Trujillo's claims, according to AP/Yahoo! News. "Over the last 15 years, the [European] Commission has supported about a dozen research initiative in this field across Europe, as well as in Asia and Africa, the areas most affected by the AIDS pandemic," the communique says, adding, "All the studies concluded that the male condom was an effective way of preventing the transmission of HIV, with an efficacy close to 100% when the condom is used appropriately" (AP/Yahoo! News, 10/21).
NPR Interviews 'Panorama' Correspondent
NPR's "Day to Day" on Monday interviewed Steve Bradshaw, the "Panorama" correspondent who reported for "Sex and the Holy City," about the Vatican's claim. In the interview, Bradshaw said that he was surprised to find Roman Catholics in a clinic in western Kenya spreading the church's "anti-condom message" that condoms have "holes in them through which the virus could percolate." Bradshaw said that although most of the "Sex and the Holy City" program examined the wider debate over sexual values, the part about condoms' effectiveness "caught the world's attention," adding, "I think everybody would agree -- including the Vatican and their critics -- that it is fortunate that this is now being debated in public and not behind closed doors." The segment also includes audio excerpts from the "Panorama" documentary's interviews with Raphael Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya, and Trujillo (Pesca, "Day to Day," NPR, 10/20).
The full segment is available online in RealPlayer. A transcript of the "Panorama" documentary is now available online.