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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Pope rejects condoms for Africa
South African President Thabo Mbeki with Pope Benedict XVI in May
The Pope has already met South African President Thabo Mbeki
The spread of HIV and Aids in Africa should be tackled through fidelity and abstinence and not by condoms, Pope Benedict XVI has said.

Speaking to African bishops at the Vatican, the Pope described HIV/Aids in Africa as a "cruel epidemic".

But he told them: "The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids."

More than 60% of the world's 40m people with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.

In South Africa alone, 600-1,000 people are thought to die every day because of Aids.

Pope Benedict, who was elected to succeed John Paul II in April, has already signalled that he will maintain a strictly traditional line on issues including abortion and homosexuality.

Before being elected pope, Benedict served as head of the Vatican's doctrinal office.

These were his first public comments on the issue of Aids/HIV and contraception since taking office.

It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraception mentality
Pope Benedict

He was addressing bishops from South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho, who had travelled to the Vatican for a routine papal audience.

Some Catholic clergymen have argued that the use of condoms to stem the spread of the disease would be a "lesser of two evils".

The Pope warned that contraception was one of a host of trends contributing to a "breakdown in sexual morality", and church teachings should not be ignored.

"It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraception mentality," he added.

The virus "seriously threatens the economic and social stability of the continent," the Pope said.

The UN estimates that without new initiatives and greater access to drugs, more than 80 million Africans may die from Aids by 2025 and HIV infections could reach 90 million, or 10% of the continent's population.





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