Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of the Pontifical Council for the Family
Explains Problems with the Use of Condoms for AIDS Prevention
His Eminence, Alfonso Cardinal López Trujillo
October 11, 2003
1) QUESTION: COULD YOU PLEASE STATE YOUR EXACT POSITION AS YOU EXPLAINED IT TO THE BBC CONCERNING THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF USING CONDOMS TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF AIDS?
On my statements on a recent interview with the BBC Television Network program Panorama, regarding the use of contraception to prevent the spread of AIDS, I would like to state the following.
I imagined that the subject was better known. Instead, I am surprised with some of the reactions. This is even more curious because the program has not yet been transmitted. The subject of safe sex has been treated in various scientific studies. Among my concerns was my intention not to mislead people, especially the youth, by making them think that there is "safety", where in fact safety is not even proven! How many youths have taken the way towards promiscuity, pushed by false hypotheses, and have fallen victims of this pandemic? It is a serious responsibility!
In the one-hour interview I gave to BBC on different questions regarding family and life, one question was dedicated to the theme of "safe sex". I affirmed the following:
One cannot really speak of "safe sex", leading people to believe that the use of condoms is the formula to avoid the risk of HIV and thus to overcome the AIDS pandemic. Nor should people be led to believe that condoms provide absolute safety. They do not mention that there is a percentage of grave risk, not only of AIDS, but also of the different sexually transmitted diseases, and that the rate of failure is quite high.
2) QUESTION: WHAT SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH DID YOU USE TO MAKE THE STATEMENT?
There are many published studies that give rise to well-founded doubts regarding the "safety" of condom use. Jacques Suaudeau, who is a medical doctor and who has followed closely the AIDS debate and problem in Africa, has an important article in our Lexicon, replete with bibliographical entries on the topic. We also received news of a study report of groups representing 10,000 doctors accusing the Center[s] for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States for covering up the government's own research which showed the "ineffectiveness of condoms to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases." This report by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (a group in New York monitoring UN matters related with family and life) furthermore states that the CDC's refusal to acknowledge this fact had "contributed to the massive STD epidemic".
3) QUESTION: WHAT IS YOUR COMMENT ON THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION'S RESPONSE?
I have not seen any response from the WHO, and this does not seem strange, also because the program has not yet been transmitted. At any rate, the WHO is meritorious in their work in the cure of many diseases. But with regards to the condom they should undertake serious scientific studies, and take a more effective path, rather than take risks. For example, the distribution of condoms to children and adolescents in their well-known campaigns is a grave irresponsibility.
I simply wished to remind the public, seconding the opinion of a good number of experts, that when the condom is employed as a contraceptive, it is not totally dependable, and that the cases of pregnancy is not rare. In the case of the AIDS virus, which is around 450 times smaller than the sperm cell, the condom's latex material obviously gives much less security. Some studies reveal permeability of condoms in 15% or even up to 20% of cases. Thus, to talk of condom as "safe sex" is a form of Russian Roulette! And this is even without considering other possible reasons for condom failure, such as degradation of latex due to exposure to sunlight and heat, rupture and breakdown.
4) QUESTION: WHAT THEN DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ADVISE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST AIDS?
The Church understands the difficulties and anguish of the people. But she cannot keep quiet. Even just the moral values of mutual fidelity of spouses and chastity already provide true protection, and are fitting of the human being, of sex that is responsible and not banal.
The Church is very close to the drama that so many families and persons suffer. Today the Church has so many centers for the sick. There are also many research centers. There are many houses generously taking care of the sick, especially in the terminal phase. I think that there is no country wherein the Church has no such service.
Very importantly, we remember the many orphans whose parents have died due to AIDS. Where there is conjugal fidelity, promiscuity, which is the main cause of the spread of the disease, is conquered. Where there is an adequate orientation in sexuality, an understanding of chastity, the risks could be overcome with certainty. Thus the Church invites all to a formation in the values, especially of the youth, and the respect of the duties of the family, which are the only true solutions to the problem. Some say this is not realistic. But I think the most serious challenge is to educate in love.
All this requires a holistic vision of man and woman, of fidelity in marriage and of sex education, by which the moral aspect of the problem is taken into account. Institutions distributing condoms to children and in public schools are gravely irresponsible. Parents should react, exercising their right to defend their children, so that they are not attacked by this violent type of interference in their world of innocence.
Even seeing the problem only from the perspective of hygiene, and not yet the totality of the moral problem, I propose that the Ministries of Health require the inclusion in condom packages and advertisements, and in the apparatus or shelves where they are displayed, a warning, that the condom is not safe. This has been done since some time ago with cigarettes, saying that the filter does not guarantee protection.
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