A leading AIDS expert from Harvard University has come out in support of comments made by Pope Benedict XVI suggesting that the distribution of contraception actually spreads rather than prevents AIDS.
Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, said that research into the spread of AIDS actually supports the position of the Catholic Church and the pope.
"The Pope is correct … the best evidence we have supports the Pope's comments," Green said, according to National Review Online.
"There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the US-funded 'Demographic Health Surveys,' between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates," he explained. "This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction 'technology' such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by 'compensating' or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology."
During his flight to Cameroon earlier this week, the pope was asked by journalists about the position of the Catholic Church on fighting AIDS in Africa and on the use of contraception.
The pope responded, "I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem."
The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight against the disease.
There has been speculation that the pope's language was toned down by the Vatican, after it was initially reported in the press that he said distributing contraception "even aggravates the problem," rather than simply "risks worsening the problem."
During his visit to Cameroon, the pope gave a speech praising family values. Today, the head of the Roman Catholic Church is expected to arrive in Angola on the second and final stop of his first visit to Africa as pontiff.