The Vatican repeated its opposition on Wednesday to condom use to fight AIDS, saying chastity is the best way to prevent the spread of HIV.
The Vatican position may sound "ridiculous in the society in which we live," acknowledged Monsignor Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Workers, but there is only one way to prevent HIV from spreading, he added: "We say that prevention...is called chastity." Barragan's comments came ahead of a three-day Vatican symposium on health care in the world's Catholic hospitals and clinics.
The Vatican has been criticized for its steadfast opposition to condom use, especially in poor regions such as Africa that have been devastated by the epidemic. Developing countries are home to more than 90% of the world's 37.1 million HIV-infected people. Seventy percent of these, or 26 million people, live in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Roman Catholic Church has argued that condoms do not offer 100% protection and contribute to what Barragan called a "pansexual" society in which sex has been separated into an act of pleasure or procreation. "In this separation, according to this mentality, it's absurd that the church says no to condoms," he said. "But we have another ethical horizon--that is life."
Two years ago in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Monsignor Jacques Suadeau of the Pontifical Council for the Family hinted at a possible softening of the church's stance, saying condoms are one of the ways to "contain" the spread of HIV. He stressed that chastity is the only way to prevent the spread of the virus but that in the case of Thai sex workers, for example, condom use is a "lesser evil." Later, however, Suadeau denied he was signaling a change.