"You can't resolve it [Aids] with the distribution of condoms," the pope said. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."
And this is precisely the problem with those who cling to ideological thinking. They only care about consistency in their views instead of whether something actually works or not.Rebecca Hodes, head of policy for the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa's city of Capetown, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday they were "extremely angered and saddened by this ill-considered response from the pope".
"We know, based on over the 10-year experience of preventing and treating HIV in South Africa, that condoms are one of the only evidence-based means of preventing HIV available to us in Africa," she said.
"There is very little evidence to support abstinence-only education campaigns as a means of preventing HIV. Condoms work in preventing HIV."
We had a similar discussion over abstinence-only sex education. VP candidate Sarah Palin spoke in favor of it; her daughter Bristol showed that it didn’t work. And then Bristol in her first interview since giving birth came out and said that telling young people to be abstinent is "not realistic at all."
So who is hurt by all of this ideology run amok? Certainly the people we are trying to help. It is more that just hot air that people can ignore if they choose to. Unfortunately, aid from different sources comes with strings attached. For example, the Bush Administration insisted on abstinence-only sex education instead of funding for condoms, as described in this article Bush Accused of AIDS Damage to Africa. And it is safe to say that whatever financial aid the Catholic Church decides to contribute, it will not be for latex condoms which work in preventing the spread of HIV.
But the other loser in all of this is the Catholic Church itself. When it tries to impose its rigid doctrines in ways that turn a blind eye to the needs of its people, those same people will inevitably choose to either drift away to another church or become what are known as Cafeteria Catholics who stay with the religion but pick and choose Catholic doctrines based on their own conscience.
President Obama is reversing Bush policies used in providing help to African countries but controversies remain since the issue of abortion is intertwined with providing condoms for family planning in addition to protection against HIV. And guess who is in the middle of all of this?
Contraception and abortion continue to be sharply divisive issues in many conservative African countries, especially ones where the Roman Catholic Church is strong, as it is in Kenya.
More than 30 percent of Kenyans are Catholic, including the country's new president, and the church here has been vocal in opposing not only abortion, but also any sort of contraception, including the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS.
Abortion, except when a mother's life is at risk, is technically illegal in Kenya, as it is in almost every sub-Saharan African country, except for South Africa. But the World Health Organization estimates that 75 percent of abortions occur in developing countries, where the practice, though largely illegal, is widely available.
The WHO says 40 percent of all abortions are unsafe, and claim the lives of some 78,000 women a year. Forty-four percent of those deaths are in Africa.
In Kenya, botched abortions cause an estimated 30 percent of maternal deaths - at least twice the international average - and half of all admissions in gynecology wards.
And finally for those who think HIV/AIDS is mostly just an African problem, there is this.
According to a city report, 3% of Washington, D.C., residents suffer from HIV or AIDS — a figure that ranks as the highest in the nation and far outstrips the 1% benchmark at which a health issue becomes a "generalized and severe" epidemic. The district's HIV/AIDS administration director, Shannon Hader, couched the severity of the problem in stark terms, noting the city's rate of infection surpasses those in West Africa and is "on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya."