The Human Rights Campaign responded on March 17 to remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI while traveling to Africa, where he claimed that condoms increase HIV infections. Talking to the Associated Press, Benedict said the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against AIDS. â€śYou canâ€™t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,â€ť the Pope said. â€śOn the contrary, it increases the problem.â€ť
â€śThe Popeâ€™s statement that condoms donâ€™t help control the spread of HIV, but rather condoms increase infection rates, is hurting people in the name of Jesus,â€ť said Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaignâ€™s Religion & Faith Program. â€śOn a continent where millions of people are infected with HIV, it is morally reprehensible to spread such blatant falsehoods. The Popeâ€™s rejection of scientifically proven prevention methods is forcing Catholics in Africa to choose between their faith and the health of their entire community. Jesus was about helping the marginalized and downtrodden, not harming them further.â€ť
About 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS. In 2007, three-quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide were there, as well as two-thirds of all people living with HIV.
The Popeâ€™s remarks come in the same week the Washington Post reported at least 3 percent of residents in the District of Columbia have HIV or AIDS, elevating the disease to a â€śsevereâ€ť epidemic.