This week a U.N. AIDS report said the number of new HIV infections worldwide has stayed at about 2.7 million for the last three years, suggesting that the epidemic is leveling off. That’s great news! But then comes along Pope Benedict XVI reminding everyone that unethical, slutty, un-Godly people spread HIV. Ugh.
But does he even remotely have a point?
Before you lynch us for suggesting such, here’s what the Pope said exactly while speaking about the AIDS epidemic in Africa:
Above all, [the spread of HIV] is an ethical problem. The change of behaviour that [solving Africa’s AIDS epidemic] requires—for example, sexual abstinence, rejection of sexual promiscuity, fidelity within marriage—ultimately involves the question of integral development, which demands a global approach and a global response from the Church.
“For if it is to be effective, the prevention of AIDS must be based on a sex education that is itself grounded in an anthropology anchored in the natural law and enlightened by the word of God and the Church’s teaching.”
On one hand, he has a point. If a person knows about the importance of getting tested, knowing their status, communicating with sex partners and taking the necessary precautions to prevent HIV, not doing so could be construed as deliberate and unethical. But in Africa where many communities do not have safe-sex educators to disseminate information about HIV-prevention, the spread of the disease cannot be marked up to pure ethics and morality—money, government support, education and condoms all play a part too.
It’s a double-edged sword because even if the Pope considers governments “unethical” for failing to equip their citizens with HIV-prevention info, we can only imagine that sex education “enlightened by the word of God and the Church’s teaching” would also fail to teach people how to responsibly and safely fuck and go for an ineffective abstinence-only approach instead.
Pope Benedict XVI got a lot of well deserved flack in 2009 when he said that condoms in Africa actually make the AIDS problem worse. But he has since backtracked on that by saying that male hookers and pretty much everyone else can use condoms because “using condoms ‘is the lesser evil than passing HIV onto a partner.’
So while he’s managed to offensively imply that people who catch and spread HIV to others have some sort of moral or ethical failing, he’s at least implicated governments for those same failings while instructing the larger Catholic following that using condoms is more ethical and moral than not.
Image via Sergey Gabdurakhmanov