Pope Benedict XVI declared on March 17 that he believes the use and distribution of condoms will not alleviate the HIV/AIDS crisis, but will actually make it worse.
“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” he told the Associated Press during a flight to Yaounde, Cameroon, where he visited charities and spoke with bishops and Muslim leaders. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.” Approximately 22 million people in Africa are currently living with the disease.
Though popes before him have held the view that abstinence is more effective than contraception in fighting the AIDS pandemic, Benedict, 81, had never before addressed the subject of condom usage. The Catholic Church teaches against the use of artificial contraception, and therefore does not condone condoms. The Vatican maintains that abstinence and fidelity are the best solution.
The pope went on to describe the situation as the result of “a deficit of ethics in economic structures,” explaining that the church can help by offering “spiritual and moral” guidance. Benedict’s controversial statements have caused many to speculate that he may be alienating some of his followers, even conservative Roman Catholics.