Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Yankee Doodling

The papal position on condoms and HIV

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 25 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1217
  1. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist, RTI International, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}

    It would be a blessing if Benedict XVI could stop advocating policies that endanger the health of some of the world’s neediest people

    When I was aged 6 or so I used to go through my father’s top dresser drawer looking for pennies. One day I found a strange rubber balloon wrapped in foil. I didn’t know what it was and didn’t recognise the big word printed on the outside of the wrapper: “prophylactic” (this was the genteel 1950s). An inquisitive child, I looked it up in the dictionary and found out that the word meant “acting to defend or prevent something, especially a disease.” I idly wondered what disease my father was trying to prevent with this balloon but soon lost interest.

    I thought of this memory when I read about Pope Benedict XVI’s recent comments about the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission (BMJ 2009;338:b1206, doi:10.1136/bmj.b1206). As I write this, news accounts of his recent trip to Africa have been dominated by …

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