The late pope John Paul II's opposition to condom use to prevent the spread of HIV, even in poor areas of the world hit hard by the disease, was a major obstacle in fighting the global epidemic, say some AIDS activists, Agence France-Presse reports. The pope first voiced his opposition to condom use in 1988, saying that "no personal or social circumstances could ever, can now, or will ever render such an act lawful in itself." Despite being seriously ill, on March 11 he reiterated his position, saying, "Fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside are the only sure ways to limit the further spread of AIDS."
Some AIDS activists say the pope's opposition to condom use helped fuel the spread of HIV in developing nations, particularly those with large Catholic populations in Africa and Latin America. "We understand the position of the church, but you have to face reality," Attaher Maiga, a member of Mali's National AIDS High Council, told Agence France-Presse. "There isn't an alternative. The use of condoms is one of the solutions to fight the spread of HIV." A spokesman for the Paris chapter of the activist group ACT UP told the news agency, "We mourn for the 8 million Catholics who have died of AIDS and worry for the more than 10 million Catholics who are infected." Members of the South African activist group Treatment Action Campaign say they hope the next pope will have a less conservative stance on condom use to prevent HIV transmissions, particularly in developing countries.