POPE REJECTS USE OF CONDOM IN AFRICA’S FIGHT AGAINST HIV


Pope Benedict XVI has said that handing out condoms is not the answer in the fight against HIV/Aids, as he makes his first visit to Africa as pontiff.

Speaking en route to Cameroon, he said distribution of condoms “increases the problem”. The Vatican urges abstinence.

The Pope will also visit Angola on his week-long trip, where thousands are expected to attend open-air masses.

According to Vatican figures, the number of Catholics in Africa has been rising steadily in recent years.

Baptised Catholics made up 17% of the African population in 2006, compared with 12% in 1978, the Vatican says.

Pope Benedict said on the eve of his trip that he wanted to wrap his arms around the entire continent, with “its painful wounds, its enormous potential and hopes”.

Speaking to reporters on his way to Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, the Pope said HIV/Aids was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem”. The solution lies in a “spiritual and human awakening” and “friendship for those who suffer”, the AFP news agency quotes him as saying.

While in Africa, the pontiff is expected to talk to young people about the Aids epidemic and explain to them why the Catholic Church recommends sexual abstinence as the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.

He gave a similar message to African bishops who visited the Vatican in 2005, when he told them that abstinence and fidelity, not condoms, were the means to tackle the epidemic.

The BBC’s Caroline Duffield, in Cameroon, says people in Yaounde are energetically sweeping and cleaning everywhere in preparation for Pope Benedict’s visit.

The Pope will stay in Yaounde until Friday, where he will meet bishops from all over Africa who will be taking part in a meeting at the Vatican later this year to discuss the Church’s role in Africa.

In Angola, which is still recovering from 27 years of civil war, Pope Benedict will meet diplomats posted in Luanda and is expected to urge the international community not to abandon Africa.

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