Condom blessing seen as key to HIV fight; but will it really help?

Pope Benedict XVI keeps surprising his critics. In a new book, “Light of the World,” the conservative pontiff delivers a remarkable reversal on Catholic doctrine. From now on, Catholics are allowed to use condoms for purposes of HIV prevention. Metro speaks with Dr. Alex Coutinho (inset), executive director of the Infectious Diseases Institute in  Kampala, Uganda, about the effect of the Pope’s decision in AIDS-stricken Africa.

Will the Pope’s decision help HIV prevention?

The decision is very important because there are doomsayers who believe condoms don’t work. Condoms are an important tool, but people shouldn’t think that the most important issue has been solved.

Which other issues need to be solved?

People having multiple sexual partners and the lack of health services for MSM [men who have sex with men], commercial sex workers and prisoners. In Uganda, prisoners don’t even have access to condoms.

Will the Pope’s decision change people’s sexual practices?

Many African Catholics are already using condoms, and a number of Catholic health care services have quietly been providing condoms for HIV prevention purposes anyway. People who were already using condoms might feel more comfortable doing so thanks to the pope’s decision. The problem is that while African couples are generally aware that condoms protect against STDs and pregnancies, they don’t translate that knowledge into practice. Only 1 percent of married African couples use condoms.


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