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AIDS activists worry about Pope Benedict XVI's fervent opposition to condom use

AIDS activists worry about Pope Benedict XVI's fervent opposition to condom use

AIDS activists reacted with concern to Tuesday's elevation of German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to serve as Pope Benedict XVI, noting that the new pontiff is adamantly opposed to the use of condoms to prevent HIV infections, even in poor nations hit hard by the AIDS epidemic. Many Catholic leaders had hoped the successor to Pope John Paul II would take a more moderate stance on several social issues, including contraception and condom use, but Pope Benedict is expected to serve as a "strict defender of conservative Roman Catholic doctrine," Agence France-Presse reports. As head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position Ratzinger held since 1981, he vigorously defended the church's opposition to abortion, contraception, condom use, stem cell research, and homosexuality. His positions are unlikely to change now as pope, religious and health leaders say. Some even believe he will be more rigid on the issue of condom use than his predecessor, who routinely spoke out against condom use, saying abstinence and monogamy were the only church-approved methods of preventing the spread of HIV. "The former positions taken by the Catholic Church had already prevented the use of condoms and helped the spread of AIDS," Italian lawmaker Franco Grillini, honorary president of the Italian gay association Arcigay, told Agence France-Presse. "We are very worried." South African archbishop Desmond Tutu said he had hoped the newly named pope would have been a leader with more moderate views on many social and health issues. "We would have hoped for someone more open to the more recent developments in the world, the whole question of the ministry of women, and a more reasonable position with regard to condoms and HIV/AIDS," he told BBC News. He added that he hopes the new pontiff will now reconsider the church's positions on a variety of health-related issues, including the condom ban. The Reverend Paul Fairley of the Metropolitan Community Church in San Francisco echoed Tutu's hopes that the new pope will consider lifting the ban on condom use to prevent HIV infections, but says he does not expect a change to be forthcoming, Agence France-Presse reports. Tony Kerrigan, a senior medial officer with the U.K.-based group Marie Stopes International, which provides sexual and reproductive health information and services worldwide, was similarly disappointed that a condom opponent was named as the new pope. "It looks like this particular cardinal will continue with the line on contraception, condoms, and HIV prevention that Pope John Paul II had," Kerrigan told Agence France-Presse. "It's regrettable because that will impact so terribly on the lives of millions of people, particularly in the developing world."

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