Published on 18 Mar 2009

Condoms and Aids

Several readers of this blog have commented on my interview in last night’s programme on the back of Lindsey Hilsum’s report on the Pope’s trip to Africa.

En route to Cameroon, Pope Benedict remarked that condoms were not a solution to the spread of Aids but part of the problem.

After the piece, I spoke to Joanna Bogle, Catholic blogger, and Dr Rachel Baggaley, head of Christian Aid‘s HIV programme. Here’s the interview.

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

65 reader comments

  1. Mof Gimmers says:

    I watched this and nearly keeled over. The Christian lady was a baffling creature who seemingly refuted any form of figure not gathered by the church. Problem with that is, if the church found condoms to be an effective way of stopping AIDS (which it so clearly is), it wouldn’t do for them to promote it.

    So what we’re left with is a ranting woman resorting to shouting “BUT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT DEATH HERE!” Aye, we know, you lot have been bleating on about it for the past 2009 years…

    1. curlywurlyman says:
    2. Rich Leonardi says:

      From Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies:

      “The pope is correct,” Green told National Review Online Wednesday, “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments.”

      “There is,” Green added, “a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. 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.”

  2. Simon Gardner says:

    Your interview was indeed an object lesson. I posted last night before the news and in response only to your blog.

    Nevertheless, I have discovered recently that the AIDS-Pope link, which I have always understood as generally accepted these days, is vehemently denied by some – even non-Catholics.

    A week ago I was censored by Tom Harris MP on his blog. He spiked the contribution because he claimed it was “untrue” and “ridiculous” as well as being “too offensive” to mention.

    If our elected representatives are still in such denial, how can we make progress in the appalling situation in Africa and elsewhere?

    We are grateful to you for highlighting this appalling situation.

  3. Jim says:

    I saw this last night. I very nearly had to switch over to a Hollyoaks re-run!

    What utter lunacy. In the same way that angels did not land the plane on the Hudson, Catholicism will not prevent the spread of AIDS without the use of condoms. Even in the face of such overwhelming evidence that they are an effective and worthwhile means of both contraception and disease prevention, the Church would rather see millions and millions of people suffer.

    1. Oli Nicholls says:

      I just want to make a distinction on behalf of many Christians such as myself who are part of “the Church”, but do not sign up to these views. I refer you to the website of Christian charity Tearfund. And I quote: “Christians should value life and reflect God’s love and care for all people. Sharing information about appropriate condom use can help save lives.” I feel this distinction needs to be made.

    2. Jeffrey Lam says:


      I can see that most people here are able to make the distinction between the Catholic church and other Christian churches. And Tearfund is a Christian, but not Catholic organisation.

      I suspect you are, in fact, not a member of “the (Catholic) Church”. If that’s the case, you also should make the distinction between the Catholic church and other churches.

    3. Mark says:

      I like the idea of making the distinction between the Catholic Church and “other churches”.

      From an unexpected source, we find the reiteration of the eternal dogma that the Catholic Church is in fact the ONLY Church – of divine institution – as opposed to other “ecclesial communities” which were founded by people who were unable to understand or cope with the divine nature of the Church’s teaching.

      Again we see the same thing: the Pope champions divine virtues monogamy, abstinence and chastity and refuses to support anything which is against the ancient wisdom of the Church, while human institutions – be they ecclesial or secular – simply want to do it their way.

  4. Nick Wakefield says:

    I think the Catholic church, using HIV and the millions of sufferers to prop up its dwindling relevance, is a disgrace. Why have none of our national representative (MPs) come forward to condemn this continued, narrow-minded, backward-thinking, irresponsible drivel emanating from the Vatican?

    The idea that following the Catholic religion will prevent the spread of HIV is ridiculous and out of touch with reality. This point is further backed up by your guest’s suggestion that we should tell prostitutes, who need the money they make to feed themselves and their family (and probably have no other options), not to ‘go to work’ and instead educate and support them to do what they need to do safely.

  5. Orlaith says:

    Contraception is contrary to the Catholic Church’s belief in the procreative purpose of sex. It has always been that way. The church’s stance in relation to contraception and Aids is morally reprehensible in my view, as someone who was baptised a Catholic and is now a firm atheist.

    It constantly baffles me when ordinary Catholics try to disassociate their own set of beliefs from those espoused by the church that they are members of. People should familiarise themselves fully with the rules of the club, and, like me, if you don’t subscribe to their teachings then turn your back on the church once and for all.

  6. Britt_W says:

    Although I completely, utterly disagree with everything Ms Bogle said last night, I love the fact that it is never boring to watch C4 News! Never a dull moment – I just love it.

    ‘Had to’ watch BBC Breakfast and Sky News this morning at my hotel… What a difference. May you go on forever.

  7. Clare says:

    It seems that the crux of the Catholic position is that if we can convince everybody to enter into a single, lifelong, monogamous partnership, we will end the disease.

    While this is obviously technically accurate, I can predict a few problems with it’s implementation. I suppose if you spend all day, every day, in denial of basic, obvious, realistic facts, it’s not a big stretch to extend this to wishful thinking about human nature.

    Also, I’m always swayed by people who try and clarify their argument by shouting as loudly as possible while the other person is making their point. It’s an effective means of conveying your position as a rational, reasonable individual who can be swayed by facts and figures.

    Can’t imagine why they’re not being taken more seriously.

    1. Derek Smith says:
  8. Alan McMorran says:

    While I am all for equal opportunities and open access, I have to question the decision to allow someone who quite clearly had no grip on reality, or even manners, to debate an issue in an adult manner onto the news. If I had seen this on YouTube I would’ve assumed it was a work of satire! Great entertainment but at the same time, an extremely worrying glimpse into the mind of someone who believes nothing but their own propaganda…

    Oh, and hats off to Dr Rachel Baggaley for remaining calm and collected throughout. I thought she argued her point extremely well and refused to let Joanna Bogle rile her (which I can’t say I could have done under the same circumstances!)

  9. keddaw says:

    Even assuming the crazy woman’s stated facts that in Uganda, with a 43% Catholic population, AIDS decreased using the Pope’s method…

    Okay, but that still means the majority of people who are NOT Catholic were denied their human rights to have pre-marital sex, or at least to have it safely, because the Catholic church and Bush’s faith-based initiatives spread lies about the effectiveness of condom use in the fight against AIDS and made aid dependent upon the telling of these lies.

    And to go off-topic, why is the Catholic church so against sex? And I won’t go the easy points scoring route… It’s like the Jews being against foreskins. There was once a rationale behind it, but that time has long since passed.

  10. Jim says:

    I was astonished at the ignorance of at least one of the interviewees on the piece in question last night.

    It is a fact that the best prevention of sexually transmitted HIV is by wearing a condom. And the transmission of HIV sexually is often in conjunction with another STD. And again, the best prevention of catching those is by wearing a condom.

    Also, the reduction of cases of people dying from AIDS in developing countries (any country) is through education,openness (to counteract stigma), early screening and the introduction of effective HAART meds.

    The Pope and the Catholic church’s views and comments are having a negative effect on the control of the spread of HIV, and will only continue to tear families and communities apart.
    And that’s not very catholic, is it?!

  11. bill says:

    This is a great interview. The spontaneous exasperation at 2:50!!

  12. gpats says:

    Unfortunate choice of words to wrap up the interview by Mr Snow there. ‘Unfortunately, the grim reaper has called time…’

  13. Spinks says:

    Well, I have to say I have not seen someone shoot themselves so well and truly in the foot for a long time. What a lovely display of twitchy irrational behaviour by the Catholic blogger. She very nearly fell off the edge of her seat – in fact a small sparrow would have struggled to perch on the edge as she did.

    Poor Jon nearly lost an eye with those waving glasses.

    Have to say, though, on the plus side really loved the cheeky ‘oh my god’ look at the camera at about 3.05 mins. Bit of really good TV.

  14. Sarah says:

    The intereview was pure C4 news, loved it! Well done to Rachel Baggaley for keeping her cool, thus highlighting the hysteric manner in which Bogle tried to get her point across. If you cannot beat them, show them for what they are!! Well done C4 news and of course Mr Snow.

  15. Elwood Herring says:

    I would just like to point out to the previous poster called Jim that although I agree with his post, I think that this behaviour is VERY Catholic. Not very Christian, but 100% Catholic.

    And kudos to Dr. Baggaley for putting up with that obnoxious woman’s screaming.

  16. Jeffrey Lam says:

    I will have to watch the clip later, outside of work hours, but this does remind me of a Catholic church representative appearing on C4 news recently, commenting that Europe “was dying” (i.e. population numbers reducing) because of the increase in homosexuality. As commented earlier, they are opposed to sex being used for anything other pro-creation.

    I personally think the most effective method is the ABC: Abstention is the most effective, but if you can’t abstain then Be faithful, but if you can’t be faithful then use a Condom/Contraceptive.

    If we want to stop people from dying, we have to give people every opportunity, rather than making out that it is better to die (not using a condom) than not to die (using a condom). But the Catholic church seems to think otherwise.

    1. Jeffrey Lam says:

      I’ve finally watched the clip. It is surreal… whenever Joanna Bogle spoke it was a big row, but whenever Dr Baggaley spoke it seemed really peaceful…

  17. Emily P says:

    I can’t begin to respect the opinion of a woman who thinks it acceptable to shout over everyone else in order to make her point, all the while wielding her glasses in Jon’s face. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone get so irate on C4! She’s clearly struggling to justify her views to even herself – shouting loudly cannot replace the valid facts offered by Dr Baggaley.

    It was masterfully handled, as ever, Jon. Your wry look to the camera saved the day!

  18. Nick Wakefield says:

    I would like to further submit that while the shouting lady’s assumption that you only need to have unprotected sex once to transmit the HIV virus (there is no AIDS virus as she continued to refer to it), it is a very fragile virus in transmission and requires relatively large quantities of fluid to be exchanged. Condoms are an extremely effective preventative method as they prevent the transfer of such fluid! Fact.

  19. John Doe says:

    It astounds me that they allowed this woman on TV.

  20. Neil Cooper says:

    I emailed ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ and shame on you Jon you intimidated the poor woman but she has been forced to apologise.

    This is their reply –

    Joanna Bogle is a well-known Catholic journalist and commentator on Catholic issues. Joanna was invited as a freelance Catholic journalist onto the programme to comment on issues associated with the Pope’s visit to Africa and the content of what she said was entirely in line with Catholic social teaching.

    Joanna has been involved with the charity as a benefactor, volunteer and board member for many years. However, I must clarify that Aid to the Church in Need was unaware that she would be appearing on Channel 4 News (on 17th March 2009). Joanna Bogle is not our spokesperson and we had
    not asked her to represent us.

    I have spoken to Joanna who has said that she was affected by the intimidating interviewing style and consequently expressed her views in a manner which may have alienated her audience. She has asked us to apologise on her behalf.

  21. Paul Alker says:

    Yep… She’s delusional… And people continue to die.

  22. Simon Gardner says:

    Neil Cooper wrote: “I have spoken to Joanna who has said that she was affected by the intimidating interviewing style and consequently expressed her views in a manner which may have alienated her audience. She has asked us to apologise on her behalf.”

    Well, all the intimidation seemed to come from Joanna Bogle rather than anyone else.

    Perhaps she was just terrified at appearing on the box? I’ve done it once and did not enjoy the experience. But if so, her nervousness certainly manifested itself in a most peculiar way.

    Meanwhile we await another apology – that of the Catholic church for all the death and destruction it has wrought by its condom policy.

    Let’s see, it took the Catholics from his death in 1642 to 1992 to apologize for what it did to Galileo. It seems we may have to wait a while.

  23. Elwood Herring says:

    Neil Cooper – that’s no excuse. She was way out of line and over the top. What a wonderful advertisement for religious tolerance and understanding she made.

  24. Water says:

    Hi. I watched the interview as well and I didn’t think there was anything remotely intimidating about it. I feel that illogical people feel the need to speak louder, hoping that if they yell someone will hear them.
    The lack of logic and science behind the lady’s comments is shocking.

    (PS – I am a huge of fan yours, Jon!)

  25. Lindy says:

    How can anyone suggest that the interview style was intimidating? Dr Baggaley really is to be congratulated for her insistence on facts and logic against the hysteria and denials of reality next to her.

    I was watching open-mouthed. I later remembered Alice’s discussion with the White Queen in ‘Through the Looking Glass’, when the former protests at being asked to believe impossible things. “‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice’, said the queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'”

    Well, there is clearly plenty of this sort of belief about!

  26. Laura says:

    All the insane and delusional comments made by the Pope/Roman Catholic Church on this subject are much more serious and carry horrific consequences. So much more in fact, I believe it amounts to a crime against humanity. Then again, looking back, not so surprising. They did give us the Crusades, the Inquisition…

    Jon, you rock!

  27. Joe Muddiman says:

    I saw this Joanna Bogle on BBC News 24 late last year doing an interview about the Pope’s comments on homosexuality. She was just as shrill, patronising and hysterical as she was yesterday. I’m surprised she managed to get herself out of the woodwork and back on screen after her BBC interview. Avoid – or only bring out to make fun of.

    PS – Jon, that look you gave the camera was brilliant!

    1. Simon Platt says:

      No, “that look” was unprofessional.

  28. Peter Munro says:

    Great broadcast – does the mind Bogle when one becomes totally irrational?

  29. Luke says:

    The fact is that one, life-long partner is the best way to steer clear of AIDS. If you are infected and have sex with a condom, you are playing a game of chance as condoms, as you’ll all agree, are not 100% effecive. In these cases, the Church says “don’t have sex”.

    Now, for those who want to have sex willy-nilly, these rules don’t apply because, wait for it, they are not going to listen to the Catholic Church on condoms and not their message on monogamy, are they? I mean, that just doesn’t add up. Come on guys, the Pope is the only guy preaching a message that will really save lives here.

  30. Simon Gardner says:

    Some 50 posts across the two “Pope/condom” threads. Looks like an easy record for Snowblog.

    There’s nothing like religion to bring in a controversy (even if the mad woman helped).

  31. Neil Cooper says:

    Ellwood Herring wrote: “Neil Cooper – that’s no excuse.”

    My tongue was firmly in my cheek when I wrote Jon intimidated her! Of course Jon wasn’t intimidating just his usual considerate, jovial self.

    Good job she didn’t have to face up to Paxo – she would have been well and truly stuffed!

  32. Ian Smith says:

    I wonder where Jesus stood on the condom issue; or come to think of it, on the issues of wearing outrageous golden hats and pontificating from lavish palaces.

    1. Tony Webb says:

      An entertaining discussion in which the Catholic lady furthered her church’s long tradition of flying in the face of reason with terrible consequences. Incidentally, does anyone remember that marvellous character actress Peggy Mount?

  33. Paul Priest says:

    Ok let’s get one thing clear: I take it we all agree that someone who is HIV+ should not engage in sexual activity without a condom?

    Statistics show that HIV is quite difficult to contract. Nevertheless within about 220 sex acts an African male will odds-on have given the HIV virus to one of his sexual partners if he does not wear a condom. For a condomless male to contract from a female it would become almost certain within double this amount of acts.

    Is this gravely immoral? Verging on reckless irresponsibility? Technically murder? What about condoms? There’s a consensus among all those bodies “in the know” that condoms are only 85% effective in reducing the risk. So condoms merely “reduce the risk”. And if a government or health body solely promoted condom use without lifestyle change, would this not be a form of collaboration in the transmission of the subsequent infections?

    Many commentators obfuscate and equivocate the Catholic position regarding the use of condoms in the AIDS crisis with the use of artificial contraception within marital lovemaking. We need to treat people as people. Reason with them and show them there is a better way to live, respectful of themselves and others. It’s a common-sense message that isn’t madness, whether you’re in Africa or dealing with hormonal American teenagers. It’s a hard message to hear over the same-old silly debates, parodies, and dismissals. But it’s one that based on real life.

    Now, had Joanna Bogle not been so maniacally affronted by Mr Snow’s snide aside, had she not been so embarrassingly ineffectual in delivering her argument, this is what she claims she would have said –

    The Pope has noted, correctly, that giving out condoms is certainly not saving any lives in Africa and is contributing to the problem of AIDS. What spreads the disease is sexual contact with people who are infected. Distribution of condoms has led to an overall widespread increase in casual sexual contacts, as people have been told that casual sex can now be made “safe”.

    Remember, only one sexual encounter with an infected person is required to receive this deadly disease. So promotion of any policy that promotes increased sexual encounters is going to increase the overall chances of further AIDS cases day by day.

    The Church offers a 100 per cent measure that will protect you from AIDS – no sexual contact with an infected person. In the Philippines, where the first cases of AIDS were reported, the Church’s policies were implemented – and it has a miniscule rate of AIDS. In Thailand, condoms were promoted instead, and the death toll from AIDS is high and still rising – and the tragedy of child prostitution has grown to massive proportions.

    On the TV programme we were told that 22 million people had died from AIDS in Africa. The condom policies aren’t working. Why not try the alternative which works?

    Now, is Joanna Bogle correct? Or merely some daffy old dear who has allowed her Catholicism to distort her perceptions and reason? Or could she be arguing, however abysmally, a quite pertinent consideration?

    Is it the Pope who should change his stance and declare that HIV+ people should have sex with condoms? Or is it we westerners, with our ideology that defines sexual intercourse as a human right, who should be reconsidering our outlook?

    Shouldn’t we be admitting to ourselves that irrespective of our liberal ideological reluctance to ever limit anyone’s expression, we should be telling people infected with HIV that they shouldn’t be having penetrative sex because the risk – and the consequences for millions in the future – is too high?

  34. Tom G. says:

    No preconceived bias with the interviewer at all is there? He makes a spectacle of himself.

  35. Rasselas says:

    For pure bigotry some of the comments on this blog take a lot of beating. Jon “arrogance personified” Snowbrain was so manifestly partial, biased, and wholly uninterested in hearing any alternative viewpoint that it is hardly surprising that Ms Bogle had to interrupt in order to get a word in edgeways.

    I have had the misfortune to hear Snowbrain give a speech on a number of occasions. He is one of the most unimpressive regurgitators of unoriginal half-baked and out-of-date ideas I have heard. Having weaselled his way up the greasy pole by so doing, he does not improve with age or time. If he thinks this particular programme represented anything like balanced or intelligent journalism then he is plainly living a fantasy.

  36. Theresa says:

    I think its time for a few facts about HIV in Africa.

    Firstly, the biggest cause of the spread of HIV in Africa is war. War breaks down civil society. It means famine and disease. It means that there is no infrastructure to distribute medical aid, condoms or otherwise. It means large groups of refugees and soldiers shifting round a country, which is the last thing you want when you are trying to contain a pandemic like HIV. It means women and children going into prostitution in a desperate attempt to earn money and stay alive.

    Now, what is the west doing about this? Well, we’re selling Africa some serious military hardware for starters. The World Bank has decided that it’s not going to fund the establishment of integrated medical care because its too expensive, and we’re charging the earth for AZT, one of the main treatments for HIV. Oh, and we’re supplying condoms.

    The reason we are having a discussion about condoms is because we do not want to have a discussion about selling arms to Africa, proxy wars, lack of practical aid (Darfur is an absolute disgrace and the churches have been banging on about it for years, but nobody wants to know) and long term investment in an integrated health system in Africa.

    Now a few facts about the Catholic church and Africa.

    1. The Catholic church looks after 50% of HIV/AIDs sufferers in Africa and 33% worldwide and we know far more about the disease and what causes it than all the self-appointed commentators here.

    2. Countries with a significant Catholic population in Africa do better in the HIV stakes than countries that don’t. It is ridiculous to assert therefore that the spread of HIV is due to Catholic beliefs and practice.

    3. Condoms don’t work in Africa. They have been distributed there for the last twenty years by NGOs and other donor agencies and they have shown no measurable effect on HIV prevalence. The one country that has bucked the trend is Uganda, which operated an extensive education programme about how more partners meant more risk of HIV. It reduced prevalence from 16% to 5%.

    There are political and logistical problems with condoms. Africa is underpopulated and needs to have children which means that a method of birth control as a means of disease control is not always welcome. In rural areas, medical supplies are limited and for many, their only protection against HIV infection is therefore abstinence.

    Finally a word on your interview with Johanna, Jon. Like other commentators here I think she didn’t do herself any favours and you managed to rattle her and dismiss her with ease.

    What I wonder is why you contacted her in the first place to do this interview. There are any number of experienced Catholic commentators who could have given a far more robust interview: Jim Dobbin, Anne Widdecombe, or any of the heads of the Catholic aid agencies. Yet you picked an enthusiastic amateur and made a fool of her.

    Do you not want a proper discussion about this very serious issue? Do you not want to hear from the people on the ground? Or did you just want a straw man/woman to push over? 22 million people in Africa have died and your viewers are none the wiser as to why, because you will not let those who know why, have the airtime to tell them. Shame on you.

  37. Hugh says:

    The Pope & Joanna Bogle are Right – Extensive UNAIDS metastudy (2004) confirms this:

    “The public health benefit of condom promotion in settings with widespread heterosexual transmission REMAINS UNCLEAR. In countries like Uganda that HAVE CURBED generalized epidemics, reducing numbers of partners appears to have been MORE IMPORTANT than condoms. Other countries continue with high HIV transmission DESPITE HIGH CONDOM USE. Impact of condoms may be LIMITED by inconsistent use, which provides little protection, low use among those at highest risk, and NEGATIVE INTERACTIONS with other strategies, such as partner reduction.”

    Got it? Bogle/Pope Benedict have scientific UNAIDS FACTS on their side.

  38. Bernadette Bevans says:

    I used to respect the media but after seeing this it’s shocking to see how Jon Snow had his own opinions already and would hardly give Joanna Bogle an inch to speak before interrupting her to disagree. So unprofessional of him!

    It’s shocking to see so many people actually seriously think that condoms stop aids when all the facts and numbers prove otherwise, and they wouldn’t even listen to Joanna telling them that. I think I would have gotten a bit frustrated with people (supposedly professionals) interrupting over the truth because they have their minds already made up on this matter.

    One in four AIDS victims is cared for in a Catholic hospital but people continue to mock the Catholic teaching because they cannot comprehend the notion of self control or abstinence even when faced with a deadly disease. They will risk their lives by using a condom, that much is proven, but the idea of anything else obviously just blows the minds of the media.

    I’m glad I don’t watch this channel, I go elsewhere where the facts are real and the arguments are honest. Boo!

  39. Oliver Hayes says:

    While it can be argued that Joanna Bogle should have been more cool headed in that interview, I think that the handling of it was both unprofessional and a disgrace.

    It was manifestly obvious that it was conducted in a way to discredit what she and the Catholic Church has to say. Particularly to throw in the slanderous and absurd claim that the pope is condemning millions of Africans to death, because he expressed the view, rightly or wrongly, that condoms are not the answer to the AIDS epidemic! (There are epidemiological studies that support his view, and world medical opinion is not unanimous on this issue.)

    1. Simon Platt says:

      I agree. The interview was a disgrace (I mean, the conduct of the interview and the behaviour of the interviewer).

  40. Andrew says:

    So what do all you Pope-bashers make of the fact the director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Edward Green, agrees with the Pope?

    He says: “We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working… There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates.”

    So, Mr.Snow, how about apologising to the Pope (and to Joanna Bogle)?

  41. Elizabeth Gawor says:

    As everyone believes they know best the following article by those who do know will be very interesting:

    Instead of jumping on the bandwagon and huffing and puffing about the Pope’s ignorance, MercatorNet implemented its strategy of evidence-based ethics. We interviewed genuine experts on AIDS prevention strategies. Here is the response of Dr Jokin de Irala, a Spanish epidemiologist.

    * * * * *

    MercatorNet: The Pope said “the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms”. Is there any truth to this? Is the Pope far removed from the reality on the ground?

    Jokin de Irala: This is completely true and any public health specialist who is aware of the epidemiological data knows that no major HIV epidemic in the world has been curtailed with programs centered on the the promotion and distribution of condoms. The only successful stories associated with declines in the transmission of HIV are associated with the implementation of “Abstinence” and “Be Faithful”…

    MercatorNet: The Pope went on to say that “we risk worsening the problem” if AIDS prevention programs rely upon condoms. Is there any truth in this?

    Jokin de Irala: This is state of the art public health and epidemiology. Programs that rely upon condoms are conveying wrong messages to the general population and especially to youth. They convey the message that whatever you do in sex is completely safe, risk-free, as long as you use condoms. This is absolutely wrong. Risk compensation is one of the results of messages relying upon condoms. If people feel 100% safe as long as they use condoms then they tend to take higher risks.

    For those interested in the rest of the article

  42. Jamie Walker says:

    I think that the woman in question was just unable to articulate her message correctly. She was stating that the promotion of condoms also promotes sexuality and sexually active people are more likely to slip up on occasion by forgetting to use condoms – and this is why promoting condoms can increase the number of people who contract HIV.

    The only surefire way to protect against HIV is abstinence – for sexually active people, condoms offer a significant increase in protection against HIV but this is still not as much as total abstinance. I believe in the use of condoms but I understand her message and just feel she wasn’t able to articulate it properly.

  43. D Parry says:

    I have to congratulate you on your ability to choose an easy target. I have no idea who this woman was, but she was no-one who officially represents the Catholic Church; just a frustrated lay person (devoted to a type of Catholicism) who obviously wasn’t able to deal with a media savvy man like yourself.

    The teaching of the Catholic Church is simple. It is based on the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and thousands of years of moral and spiritual tradition. It is not up for debate and neither will it really change (well not in the immediate future anyway!) – just like the matter of Kosher food wouldn’t really be up for debate amongst Orthodox Jews.

    The teaching is that any sex outside a loving, stable, live-giving/affirming relationship falls short of the ideal standard for expressing human love, which is always selfless and “pure”. This ideal expression of human love, should, by its very nature, be open to the conception of new life, the fruit of the expression of love between a man and a woman. Anything outside that stable relationship (called “marriage”) is sinful. Any form of sex outside marriage is a sin – as it doesn’t reach that gold standard, which has always seen by the Church as the “best” and “healthy” (spiritually, psychologically and physically) option. All those who aren’t married are expected to be chaste, and would therefore not need condoms.

    It is a simple fact, and a true one, that anyone who refrains from sex will not become HIV+ from a sexual encounter. It is the safest means of staying safe. Anyone who decides (people can choose – we’re not mindless animals) that they’d rather have sex outside marriage will fall outside the Church’s rules (and possibly will be committing a “mortal sin”), and really if they’re able to do that what’s to stop them from going one step futher and using a condom? People who are committed to their Catholic faith have no problem with the condom issue. Those who aren’t committed don’t have a problem either – as they’re bound to use them anyway! So, where’s the problem?

    The Pope is pastor of the Catholic Church, and only devout Catholics are going to listen to him. Those who aren’t Catholic don’t have to listen to him at all (and don’t – fine). Those who call themselves Catholic but choose to live outside the moral teachings of the Church have their own conscience to guide them and am sure don’t have a problem using a condom (fine – that’s for them to decide “in true conscience”).

    As for people who intentionally have sex with partners/wives/husbands knowing that they have HIV/Aids, then these persons are (or should be) criminals… and their behaviour needs to be addressed by the courts, and not family planning clinics! If I was was HIV+ and had a wife, I know that it would be much safer for me not to make love to her than to use a condom (which can sometimes tear, etc), and if I really loved her this is what I’d do.

    People who use prostitutes are also “criminal” (or really should be), and need to be dealt with by the courts, in my opinion. Prostitutes, who by their lifestyle aren’t really committed to the teachings of the gospel – “love thyself”, will hardly be reading or listening to what the Pope has to say. This is unfortunate, as what he would doubtless be saying to them is: there is a better life for you – and your dignity as a human being created in God’s own image demands that you find that way out of the slavery that is prostitution (which is no life for anyone).

    We only have one life, and it remains better for a person to always live as near as possible to the “gold standard” as possible. The Catholic Church remains one of, if not THE main provider of aid, medical care, social care, education, etc throughout the world – she is there on the front line, trying constantly to be faithful the the Truth (as hard as that might be) and to be compassionate towards those unable to live according to it.

  44. Elizabeth Gawor says:

    Thank you Andrew, both the Pope and Joanna Bogle need a well earned apology and the timid doctor some well needed updating in AIDS education. Who are we trying to fool about condoms when the scientists say that the AIDS virus can pass through them?

    Are Condoms Really Safe?
    Fact: Latex condoms have tiny intrinsic holes called “voids.” The AIDS virus is 50 times smaller than these tiny holes which makes it easy for the virus to pass through them, (1) about as easy as a dime passing through a basketball hoop.
    Conclusion: Telling somebody to put a mere balloon between their health and a deadly disease is irresponsible. It’s like telling someone it’s okay to drink and drive as long as they wear a seat belt.

    (1) Dr. C. M. Roland, editor of Rubber Chemistry and Technology, letter to the editor, The Washington Times, 4/22/92, p. G-2

  45. M Ryan says:

    The thing that worries me about this interview is that some people who have a particular axe to grind think that it is OK for them to grind that axe even when they have been put in the position of chairing a discussion between two people who disagree on an issue.

    I would have thought that someone chairing a discussion should remain impartial between the protagonists but Jon Snow, in a very unprofessional manner, let his very one-sided view get the better of what should have been his professional impartiality.

    OK, the anti-Pope brigade will not be troubled by this particular abandonment of professionalism but I can well imagine their fury if the interviewer had been a loyal Catholic and had allowed that to totally colour his participation in the discussion. Whatever our views about condoms we should all be worried about the increasing tendency of television and radio interviewers to take sides rather than act impartially.

  46. Hugh says:

    Can I note that for all the self-attributed objectivism of the pro-condomists here, the only people citing peer-reviewed epidemiological research have been those who support the Catholic position? Hey, sniggerers, I’d love to see some links to peer reviewed counter-evidence – or is it all just bluff and bluster?

    1. Tony Webb says:

      Hang on though! The Catholic church doesn’t even allow people to have a w… sorry, masturbate. So presumably, as they’re not permitted to engage in sex, single people are expected to suppress their natural instincts until they find a partner for life.

      This in turn might lead them into marrying too readily, with all the problems that would ensue. It’s a culture based on the instilling of guilt, which by, resorting to such desperate measures, reveals its own lack of substance. Anyway, I’m off for a… coffee!

    2. Jim says:

      Indeed – the church believes we are better than mere animals who can only respond to their instincts. And it is not only not against sex – it thinks it is so important that it shouldn’t be treated like a mere recreational activity. Like… going for coffee.

  47. Mark Findlay-Wilson says:

    Can I take it from all of this that all the people who are pro the condoms would be blissfully happy to have sex with an HIV positive partner wearing a condom? I wonder if that would make for great sex?

    1. Tony Webb says:

      You can take it like that if you want to but nobody here is suggesting that sex should be made compulsory within a relationship. What’s important is that, if affected couples feel the need for sex, protection should be used.

      Most people understand the element of risk involved and many would refrain such a practice, but the fact is that you can’t reprogramme people as though they’re robots, so let’s acknowledge the fundamentals of human nature and do all we can to help.

  48. Daniel says:

    It sickens me how they prey upon the weak. The pope is committing genocide, there are no two ways about it.

  49. Condom Girl says:

    Condoms of course don’t stop Aids. However, using one can. It’s the actions of people, not inanimate objects, that has an effect on the world: if those who are going to have multiple partners use condoms then the spread of STIs, including AIDS, is reduced – this is a reality!

  50. Delia says:

    May I ask you to read this article?


  51. craigles says:

    Portraying thoughts as reality is psychosis – particulary in the face of contrary evidence: this applies to Bogle and Ed Green

  52. curriculum says:

    You’re so interesting! I don’t suppose I’ve read through a single
    thing like that before. So nice to find someone with unique thoughts on this issue.
    Really.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is required on the internet, someone with a
    little originality!

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