Letters The Pope, condoms, and HIV

Why the Pope may be right

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b1498 (Published 14 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1498
  1. Anthony McCarthy, research fellow1
  1. 1Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, London NW8 9SE
  1. a.mccarthy{at}linacre.org

    Kamerow asserts that “ABC” (abstain, be faithful, condom use) in Uganda probably owed most of its effectiveness to greater use of condoms.1 This is contradicted in several papers.2 3 4 In one the government clearly communicated that AIDS was fatal and required immediate population responses based on faithfulness to one partner, condoms being a minor component of its strategy.2

    Indeed, in an interview with Ilsussidiario.net, Edward Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard, agreed with the Pope5:

    The best evidence we have shows that condoms do not work as an intervention intended to reduce HIV infection rates in Africa ... What we see in fact is an association between greater condom use and higher infection rates ... We are seeing HIV decline in at least 8 or 9 countries in Africa. In every case the proportion of men and women reporting multiple sexual partners has decreased a few years before we see the decline. Yet most AIDS programs emphasise condoms, testing, and drugs.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1498


    • Competing interests: None declared.


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