Christian Aid Welcomes Pope's Re-Think on Condoms

Christian Aid welcomes the Vatican's reconsideration of condoms, as a study commissioned by Pope Benedict XVI could mean a historic change in the anti-condom stance of the Roman Catholic Church.

The study looks at the role of condoms in the prevention of HIV transmission and is now being reviewed by theologians at the Vatican for potential use in a Papal document. Until now, the use of condoms has been condemned.

Pope Benedict's health advisor has recommended that condoms could be used to save lives, as they can prevent the transmission of HIV.

Many religious leaders have been reluctant to support condom use until recently because they fear it would promote promiscuity.

There is as yet no evidence that the availability of condoms and educating people to use them to prevent HIV transmission increases the number of sexual partners people have or encourages early sexual debut.

In fact there is evidence to the contrary that high-quality HIV prevention education can lessen risky sexual behaviour, reduce partner numbers and delay sexual debut. Furthermore, for couples where one partner is HIV-positive and one HIV-negative, condoms are life saving.

A woman of Anerela+, the African network of religious leaders living with HIV, is HIV-positive, infected by her husband.

"I did not have sex till I was married," she says, "and I have never had sex with anyone except for my husband. Now he is dead and I have HIV. If only I had known about condoms maybe this would not have happened."

Rachel Baggaley, head of HIV at Christian Aid: "It would be wonderful if the Vatican could support condom use to prevent HIV. Not only would this prevent the shame and guilt felt by some people but countless HIV transmissions could be avoided."

4.3 million people have become infected with HIV during 2006, and there were 7,000 new cases in the UK. Christian Aid claims that HIV is preventable and every method of preventing its spread should be used. The charity expressed hope that Pope Benedict would overcome opposition to condoms in the midst of this 'public health disaster'.