New York Times Examines Vatican’s Stance on Condom Use To Prevent HIV Transmission Within Marriage
The New York Times on Tuesday examined the debate surrounding the Vatican's stance on condom use within marriage to prevent HIV transmission (Fisher, New York Times, 5/2). Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, in an interview published last month in Rome's La Repubblica said Pope Benedict XVI had asked the council and other scientists and theologians to study condom use as a means of HIV prevention among married couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not. He also said that the Vatican would release a document on the subject soon. However, Vatican officials recently denied reports that the Vatican plans to release a document, and Barragan over the weekend said the council only is drafting an internal study of the issue (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/1). Although news reports surrounding the announcement of the study have been "contradictory," the issue of condom use in marriage to prevent the transmission of HIV is "one of the most complicated and delicate facing the church," according to the Times. Among the factors complicating and driving the debate is that the Catholic Church is becoming more influential in Africa, the continent hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. "There is a deep vein of feeling against any change" on the church's stance on condoms, the Times reports. Vatican approval of condom use for HIV prevention in marriage could be interpreted as the church condoning condom use in general, "and that would seem to undermine the whole church teaching on sexuality and marriage," the Rev. Brian Johnstone, a moral theologian at the Accademia Alphonsian in Rome, said. However, supporters of a change in condom policy say the practice could be interpreted as self-defense and also could be seen as a medical intervention instead of contraception, the Times reports. If the pope does ease the ban on condoms, "it will have a huge influence," Rebecca Schleifer, a researcher on HIV/AIDS-related issues for Human Rights Watch, said. She and other experts say a policy change would make it easier to reduce resistance to condom use in places where the Catholic Church has a stronghold, such as the Philippines and parts of Africa (New York Times, 5/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.