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Pope may be right

Posted: April 6, 2009 11:29 p.m.
Updated: April 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Pope Benedict XVI, while en route to Africa, defended the Catholic church's promotion of monogamy and opposition to condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

This prompted a fresh round of scorn from the Western press. But it might surprise the casual observer to learn that empirical record supports the Pope's assertions.

First, every instance in which HIV rates have fallen in Africa is most attributable to fundamental changes in sexual behavior, most importantly an increase in marital faithfulness.

Research by the University of California at San Francisco for the lead United Nations' AIDS agency concluded that condoms have not been responsible for turning around any of the severe African epidemics.

The Pope also raised the possibility that condom promotion even risks worsening the problem. This is consistent with what researchers in public health circles call "risk compensation" or "behavioral dis-inhibition."

The informed observer might well conclude that the outrage aimed at the Pope over the fight against HIV/AIDS is poorly directed.


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