Pope Acknowledges Condoms Prevent HIV

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AFP/Getty
Maybe he said maybe.
Pope Benedict has broken with decades of established Vatican tradition by stating in an interview that there are situations in which condom use is acceptable for preventing the spread of disease.

In a book-length interview called Light of the World released today, Benedict said that controversial remarks of his about condom use in Africa were mischaracterized. He had said on a visit to several African nations that distributing condoms were not the answer to that continent's raging HIV epidemic.

In Light of the World he explains that he meant condoms -- widely recognized as cheap and effective in preventing the spread of HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections -- were not the only thing needed to help prevent new infections.

He stopped far short, however, of saying that the Church endorses condom use. He merely said they have a place in morality, in avoiding the spread of HIV:

"She [the church] of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality," the pontiff said in the book.

While it's a far cry from endorsing condom use, public health professionals laud it as a small step in the right direction. Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, told the Daily RFT that even baby steps are appreciated.

"We're grateful for the Pope's statement," Gianino says. "It is a small but, in our view, really critical step in the right direction. I think all of us in public health hoped that the pope would go further, but it's undeniable that within his statement is a recognition of something we have said forever: that the consistent use of condoms is one of the most effective defenses people have to protect themselves and their partners from infection."

Don't expect a condom basket next to the holy water font at your local cathedral any time soon, but do check out the Pope's remarks for yourself.

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