BY SIMON CALDWELL
POPE BENEDICT XVI has received an endorsement by one of the world’s leading experts on Aids over his remarks that flooding Africa with condoms risked “aggravating” the spread of the disease.
Dr Edward Green, a medical anthropologist with more than 30 years of experience fighting diseases in African countries, said the “best” evidence showed that widespread availability of condoms led to higher rather than lower rates of HIV infection. “The Pope is correct,” said Dr Green, director of the Aids Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Centre for Population and Development Studies, one of the world’s foremost Aids research institutes.
“The best evidence we have supports the Pope’s comments,” he said. “We just cannot find an association between more condom use and lower HIV reduction rates.” On the contrary, he said, there was a “consistent associ ation shown by our best studies, including the US-funded Demographic Health Surveys, between greater availability and use of condoms and higher HIV-infection rates”.
Dr Green said: “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 by compensating or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.” Dr Green added: “The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behaviour change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates.” Pope Benedict sparked outrage in the western media last week when, travelling by plane to Africa, he told reporters that condoms exacerbated the Aids pandemic.