- The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken
by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through
which the HIV virus can pass - potentially exposing thousands of people
- The church is making the claims across four continents
despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable
to the HIV virus.
- A senior Vatican spokesman backs the claims about permeable
condoms, despite assurances by the World Health Organisation that they
- The church's claims are revealed in a BBC1 Panorama programme,
Sex and the Holy City, to be broadcast on Sunday. The president of the
Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo,
told the programme: "The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than
the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that
is formed by the condom.
- "These margins of uncertainty... should represent
an obligation on the part of the health ministries and all these campaigns
to act in the same way as they do with regard to cigarettes, which they
state to be a danger."
- The WHO has condemned the Vatican's views, saying: "These
incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing
a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people,
and currently affects at least 42 million."
- The organisation says "consistent and correct"
condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%. There may be breakage
or slippage of condoms - but not, the WHO says, holes through which the
virus can pass .
- Scientific research by a group including the US National
Institutes of Health and the WHO found "intact condoms... are essentially
impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens including the smallest
sexually transmitted virus... condoms provide a highly effective barrier
to transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD
- The Vatican's Cardinal Trujillo said: "They are
wrong about that... this is an easily recognisable fact."
- The church opposes any kind of contraception because
it claims it breaks the link between sex and procreation - a position Pope
John Paul II has fought to defend.
- In Kenya - where an estimated 20% of people have the
HIV virus - the church condemns condoms for promoting promiscuity and repeats
the claim about permeability. The archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi
Nzeki, said: "Aids... has grown so fast because of the availability
- Sex and the Holy City includes a Catholic nun advising
her HIV-infected choirmaster against using condoms with his wife because
"the virus can pass through".
- In Lwak, near Lake Victoria, the director of an Aids
testing centre says he cannot distribute condoms because of church opposition.
Gordon Wambi told the programme: "Some priests have even been saying
that condoms are laced with HIV/Aids."
- Panorama found the claims about permeable condoms repeated
by Catholics as far apart as Asia and Latin America.
- - Steve Bradshaw is a correspondent with Panorama. Sex
and the Holy City will be broadcast on BBC1 at 10.15pm on Sunday.
- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited