Pope on Addressing AIDS: “First and Foremost,” Work to Change Sexual Behavior

By Ellen M. Rice

VATICAN CITY Dec. 11, 2008 ( — In his 2009 World Day of Peace message released today, Pope Benedict XVI urged the world to fight moral underdevelopment and problem behavior in order to achieve victory over the AIDS pandemic.

Pope Benedict decried the tactics of developed countries that “make economic aid conditional upon the implementation of anti-life policies” to countries suffering from AIDS.  The message pointed out that developing countries with higher birth rates have a better chance to emerge from poverty, and concluded, “Population is proving to be an asset, not a factor that contributes to poverty.”

Rather than use barrier methods of birth control as a means to control AIDS, Pope Benedict called for a return to morality and respect for true marriage. “It is especially hard to combat AIDS, a major cause of poverty, unless the moral issues connected with the spread of the virus are also addressed.” 

However, in order to address the moral issues involved, “First and foremost, educational campaigns are needed, aimed especially at the young, to promote a sexual ethic that fully corresponds to the dignity of the person.”  The Pope thereby excluded what are known as “comprehensive sex education” programs as a strategy to deal with AIDS, instead supporting programs promoting abstinence until marriage and fidelity in marriage. He praised the effectiveness of educational programs that promote chastity and true marriage: “Initiatives of this kind have already borne important fruits, causing a reduction in the spread of AIDS.” 

In addition to implementing proper programs of moral formation, the Holy Father said “the necessary medicines and treatment must be made available to poorer peoples. This is a task that will involve a determined effort to promote medical research and innovative forms of treatment,” and flexibility in applying intellectual property laws that cause some treatments to be too expensive for the poor.

2009 World Day of Peace Message

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