Related: Do condoms have large enough holes for HIV to pass through?
Back in Mar 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa and stated that condom use was not the answer to Africa's HIV/AIDS problems.
- MSNBC: Pope: Condoms not the answer in AIDS fight
- The Guardian: Pope claims condoms could make African Aids crisis worse
For quotes, this is from the MSNBC article:
"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane heading to Yaounde. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."
And this from the Guardian:
The pontiff, speaking to journalists on his flight, said the condition was "a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems".
I get that the Catholic stance of monogamy and non-premarital sex would certainly reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS; what I'm skeptical about is that distribution of condoms would aggravate or increase the problem. Some claim that the pope was right -- Washington Post: Condoms, HIV-AIDS and Africa - The Pope Was Right:
In 2003, Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California conducted a condom effectiveness study for the United Nations' AIDS program and found no evidence of condoms working as a primary HIV-prevention measure in Africa... Since then, major articles in other peer-reviewed journals such as the Lancet, Science and BMJ have confirmed that condoms have not worked as a primary intervention in the population-wide epidemics of Africa.
Has increased condom distribution led to an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa?
Similarly, some sub-questions might be:
- Has condom use been shown definitively to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS (compared to non-condom use situations)? (This seems obvious, but it might still be helpful)
- Is the cause of the rise or plateau of infection rates to do with condoms themselves or usage rates that are too low?
- Put one last way, if condoms were universally available and used at a very high rate, would we see a decrease in HIV/AIDS transmission rates?
This seems to circulate around quite a bit (that the pope was right and that making condoms available has actually increased the problem, perhaps because condoms themselves don't work), especially amongst Catholics; I thought it might be helpful to disambiguate what's actually going on.