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Medical Journal Criticizes Pope's Comments on AIDS


The prestigious British medical journal, Lancet, has said Pope Benedict's recent comments against the use of condoms to combat AIDS problem were not only inaccurate but distorted science.

Heavy criticism continues of Pope Benedict's comments that condoms exacerbate the problem of AIDS. The latest attack has come from the prestigious British medical journal Lancet which wrote that the pope had publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue.

Speaking on the plane to journalists on his first visit to Africa, the pope said HIV/AIDS was a tragedy that could not be overcome through the distribution of condoms, saying it could even increase the problem. He added that the teaching by the Catholic Church of abstinence and fidelity was the only way to combat the problem.

His comments ignited a firestorm of criticism from health officials and activists who said his words were unrealistic and unscientific.

In an interview, aids researcher Dr. Anthony Fauci reacted to the pope's comments.

"It is very clear from good scientific data that condoms play a major role in the prevention of HIV. If the point that he was trying to make is that that is not the only way, that there are other ways that you can prevent then that's a fair statement," Fauci said. "But to say in a negative way that condoms are not important is not really consistent with the facts, the scientific facts. The other issue that was brought up in the conversation, at least from the quote that I heard, was that he thought it could make matters even worse. And in fact, that also is not the case because there is no indication whatsoever that the widespread distribution of condoms in fact encourages people to practice risky sexual behavior, that just is not the case."

Politicians in France, Germany and Spain, and the United Nations also spoke out against the pope's words saying they were irresponsible and endangered public health policies.

In its article, Lancet said the male latex condom was the single most effective way to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDs. It added that whether the pope's error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology was unclear.

The medical journal has urged the Vatican to issue a retraction.

In a related development, a Facebook group protesting Pope Benedict comments, urged members to send condoms to the Vatican Friday.

Organizers of the Italian group on the social networking Web site said 60,000 subscribers would send a condom to the Vatican. But deliveries could total millions after similar Facebook groups across the world also pledged to participate.

But rallying round the pope, the head of Italy's Bishops Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said the barrage of criticism against the pope had been prolonged beyond good reason.

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