The DA leader in the Gauteng legislature, Jack Bloom, has written a statement defending the Pope's recent widely reported scepticism of condoms. Bloom's comments show a poor appreciation of AIDS science. His attempt to rescue the Pope is flawed.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) acknowledges the excellent work done by churches worldwide to address the HIV epidemic. The groundswell of support from churches in caring for people with HIV has often meant that people have access to essential services who would otherwise have suffered and died needlessly. The church is one of the greatest allies of the HIV treatment access movement across the globe, and especially in Africa. In South Africa, where over 50% of the population attends a house of worship at least once a week, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane and other religious figures have championed the struggle for access to ARVs and other life-saving services, side by side with activists. It is for this reason that TAC was so dismayed to hear the recent harmful and ill-informed comments by Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to Cameroon on Tuesday.
On Tuesday 17 March, Pope Benedict XVI visited Cameroon and told reporters, “You can't resolve [AIDS] with condoms ... On the contrary, it increases the problem.” To view a CNN video clip of the Pope's comments please click here.
Male latex condoms are the most efficient technology there is to reduce the transmission of HIV among sexually active South Africans. For the past two weeks the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has experienced difficultly in accessing an adequate supply of condoms. TAC distributes over 1 million condoms a month in the Western Cape alone. Our HIV prevention efforts are currently being undermined by a shortage of condoms which we have now confirmed to be a nation-wide problem.
The Department of Health has asked for the statement below, on recalled condoms, to be distributed widely. It is critical to restore confidence in government's condom distribution programme and therefore the Treatment Action Campaign encourages the distribution of this statement. We welcome the Department's commitment to resolving this issue. We ask the Department and the South African Bureau of Standards to follow this up by indicating precisely what measures they have taken to reduce the likelihood of faulty condoms passing quality control again.
15 June 2006: Report on TAC youth march for prevention in Eastern Cape