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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 June, 2004, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
EU criticises Vatican's condom 'bigotry'

By Mukul Devichand
BBC Panorama

The European Union has condemned Catholic Church "bigotry" over the use of condoms to fight HIV.

European Commissioner Poul Nielsen made his comments on the BBC's Panorama programme, broadcast on Sunday.

The Vatican says there is no such thing as safe sex
Mr Nielsen said: "They are hurting and bringing into great danger the lives of millions out there."

His comments were in response to a Vatican paper that claimed the HIV virus - which leads to Aids - can pass through latex condoms and cause infection.

The paper, published by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, backs up its claims with scientific references.

The Panorama team spent six months researching whether there was any truth behind Cardinal Trujillo's claims about condoms and HIV.

Cardinal Trujillo, who is known in the Vatican for his hard-line stance on contraception, told Panorama last year: "The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the sperm."

He said: "Scientists realise that there is a degree of uncertainty - it might be 15%, 18%, or 20%."

This is where bigotry gets into the big discussion
Poul Nielsen
EU Commissioner
In his paper, Cardinal Trujillo argued that there could be "millions of leaking condoms".

He said there was no such thing as safe sex, adding that sex with condoms was like playing "Russian roulette" with Aids.

Cardinal Trujillo also argued that promoting family values would be more effective against HIV than condoms - giving Uganda as an example of a country where abstinence and monogamy had reduced HIV prevalence.

Despite intense opposition from pro-choice groups, the Vatican has refused to change its opposition to all forms of contraception.

The use of condoms to prevent HIV infection is also prohibited - despite considerable opposition from within the Church itself.

'Lack of love'

Mr Nielsen, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said: "This is where bigotry gets into the big discussion."

He condemned the Vatican's "lack of love for human beings" and "unwillingness to take their situation seriously".

The Church is a mother. What mother would allow her son to go on a plane if she knew there was a 15% chance it would crash?
Bishop Rafael Llano Cifuentes
Mr Nielsen said it forced people into "a terrible choice of abstinence or lose the blessing of the Church".

The Vatican refused to be interviewed for the programme.

But Bishop Rafael Llano Cifuentes, Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janeiro, told the programme "people are being deceived" by the message that condoms can prevent HIV infection.

He said: "The Church is a mother. What mother would allow her son to go on a plane if she knew there was a 15% chance it would crash?"




SEE ALSO:
Can condoms kill?
27 Jun 04  |  Panorama
African family values
27 Jun 04  |  Panorama
Condoms at carnival
27 Jun 04  |  Panorama
Condoms: The science
27 Jun 04  |  Panorama
Your comments
27 Jun 04  |  Panorama



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