By Hilary White

SYDNEY, Australia, April 15, 2009 ( – In a recent interview with local media, the Catholic archbishop of Sydney Australia said he “totally agreed” with Pope Benedict XVI that the use of condoms in AIDS prevention tends to exacerbate the problem of the epidemic.

“The idea that you can solve a great spiritual and health crisis like AIDS with a few mechanical contraptions like condoms is ridiculous,” Cardinal George Pell said.

Cardinal Pell said that African countries that are “awash” with condoms, which tends to encourage promiscuity which in turn increases the instances of HIV/AIDS infections.

“They’re encouraging promiscuity because they’re encouraging irresponsibility,” he said.

On a trip to Cameroon and Angola in March, Pope Benedict XVI sparked a firestorm of protest from the mainstream media, international AIDS groups, homosexualist activists and European governments when he said that condoms are aggravating the African epidemic.

Cardinal Pell compared the AIDS rates in Thailand, which is “awash” in condoms, with the lower rates in the Philippines, where condoms are restricted. “There are condoms everywhere and the rate of infection is enormous. That’s what the Pope is talking about.”

He spoke about a non-Catholic health worker he knew who had told him condoms were not an effective solution to Africa’s AIDS problem.

“He made the point that the people in remote areas are too poor to afford condoms and the ones that are available are often of very poor quality and weren’t used effectively,” the cardinal said.

Despite the uproar after the Pope’s comments in March from many claiming that condoms have been “proven” to be the only effective means of stopping AIDS, much research has been published calling this received wisdom into question. 

In 2005, South Africa, which had an AIDS rate of 18.1 per cent as of 2007, recalled millions of locally manufactured condoms after tens of thousands failed an air burst test. The South African Health Ministry said that the recall involved condoms that had been distributed free by the government for its AIDS prevention program.

Condom manufacturers admit the “perfect use” pregnancy rate using condoms is 2 per cent per year. Research by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that the rate of condom breakage is between 0.4 per cent and 2.3 per cent, while the rate of slippage is between 0.6 per cent and 1.3 per cent.

In 2003, researchers Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California conducted a condom effectiveness study for the U.N.‘s AIDS program. They concluded, “In many sub-Saharan African countries, high condom use has yet to produce demonstrable benefit … sad experience shows that high HIV transmission can coexist with high condom use.”

An article in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet in January 2000 concluded, “Massive increases in condom use worldwide have not translated into demonstrably improved HIV control in the great majority of countries where they have occurred.”

“A vigorous condom-promotion policy could increase rather than decrease unprotected sexual exposure, if it has the unintended effect of encouraging greater sexual activity,” the report said.


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