amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Despite Pope’s Claim, Condoms Are Essential to Fighting AIDS



Condom and hands 

March 18, 2009–Condoms are an indispensable part of evidence-based HIV prevention programs and are necessary to curb the growing global epidemic, amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost said today in response to controversial comments made this week by Pope Benedict during a goodwill trip to Africa.

The Pope reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS while speaking to reporters aboard a plane to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. Contradicting a large body of available evidence, he suggested that condoms are exacerbating the epidemic rather than helping control it.

“Condoms are an absolutely essential part of any HIV/AIDS prevention program,” Frost said. “Healthcare and aid workers must be allowed to distribute them and teach people how to use them correctly.”

About 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS. In 2007, the region was home to two-thirds of all people living with HIV and three-quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide occurred there.

Research shows that latex condoms are up to 95% effective in preventing HIV when used correctly and consistently, making them the most effective HIV prevention technology available. Female polyurethane condoms have been found to be almost 97% effective under similar conditions.

Scientific data shows that comprehensive HIV/AIDS education programs that promote safe sex and teach about condom use, as well as abstinence and fidelity, offer a more effective strategy than teaching abstinence alone.

To view amfAR’s issue brief on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV infection, please click here.