In October 2003, the Vatican published a paper claiming that the HIV virus can pass through latex condoms and cause infection. I have not seen the original paper, but have read about some of its points in various online newsreports, such as this one from BBC News World Edition. In this report, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, claims that causative agent of AIDS, HIV-1, can pass through small pores in the condom. I would like to see the ‘scientific evidence’ supposedly in this report, but I have no doubt that it is entirely wrong. HIV-1 virions are very small, but latex is not sufficiently porous to allow the virions to pass through. It is quite clear that the proper use of condoms is highly effective at preventing spread of this virus.
In fact, as long ago as 1992, the question of whether or not HIV-1 virions could pass through latex was discussed in the Washington Times. A good synopsis of these issues can be found in The Straight Dope.
The Vatican report has been roundly criticised by a wide range of individuals, from scientists to religious leaders. Yet, the Vatican refuses to reverse their position. Clearly this is an example of how the Vatican’s position on birth control – all forms being unacceptable except ‘rythmn’ – is clouding their view on the health and safety of millions of people. Many will believe the Vatican, and stop using condoms, which will only increase transmission of the disease.
The Vatican does not want people to use condoms, but it is highly irresponsible for them to use HIV-1 and AIDS as a means of discouraging their use. Especially when the excuse for not using condoms – that they pass the virus – is categorically wrong. In the end, more people will contract AIDS as a consequence of the Vatican’s pronouncement. Shouldn’t the Vatican be trying to save lives?