Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pope goes tragically wrong on HIV/AIDS

This story in today's Guardian is very disturbing. It appears Pope Benedict XVI is visiting Africa. En route to Cameroon, the Pope told journalists "condoms were not the answer to the continent's fight against HIV and Aids and could make the problem worse." He went on to say that HIV/AIDS is "a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems." Another report cited on the Bad Attitudes blog quotes from a Wall St Journal report:
Pope Benedict XVI said on his way to Africa Tuesday that condoms weren’t the answer in the continent’s fight against HIV, his first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients…

“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon, where he will begin a seven-day pilgrimage on the continent. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

The Pope clearly doesn't understand HIV/AIDS and nor does he understand Africa's problems and the way these facilitate the pandemic. In 2005 he told a gathering of southern African bishops in Rome:

It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraception mentality
HIV/AIDS is an epidemic that thrives on oppress9on, injustice and oppression. Back in January, I had the pleasure to read and review Musa Dube's HIV & AIDS Bible. As well as a scholar at the University of Botswana, Musa Dube is also HIV & AIDS Theological and Gender Consultant for the World Council of Churches.Her diagnosis of the problems that Africa faces and that are the cause of the spread of HIV? "Poverty, gender inequality, child abuse, racism, ethnic conflict, war, international injustice and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation" She also call on the Churches to recognise and acknowledge that the Body of Christ is HIV+. She calls on the churches to put the sustenance and maintenance of life at the centre of their praxis instead of maintaining rigid moralities that marginalise and disempower those most at risk. Rome's stance on contraception and condoms is one such example of the Church getting it so wrong. The irony, of course, is that most African countries can't afford the free condom regime that is a necessary part of preventing HIV transmission. But this is one area that the Churches could assist, at the very least by targetted distribution of condoms to those most at risk and the promotion of HIV education for women and children especially to empower themselves as sexual beings. Benedict by his ignorant statements on HIV has shown himself to part of the problem and not the solution, an AIDS criminal who by not recognising that the Body of Christ is HIV+ is guilty of crucifying Christ again and again

1 comment:

  1. I saw this today too, it is heartbreaking. I had hoped that Benedict might have a more realistic view than John Paul II, so this is extremely unfortunate. I notice that it's mired in the same confused and confusing ideas of sexuality that give us condemnation of queers, notionally celibate clergy, and all-too frequent sexual abuse. I wonder if anyone has informed Benedict that even, gasp, married couples, can contract STIs, or is he deluded by an idea that these epidemics only choose to infect those sinners who deserve it?