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24 September 2014
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09.10.03


BBC NEWS


Catholic Church claims condoms are permeable to HIV


The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which the HIV virus can pass potentially exposing thousands of people to risk, according to Panorama - Sex and the Holy City - Sunday, BBC ONE at 10.15pm.


Panorama shows that the church is making the claims across four continents despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to the HIV virus.


In the programme, a senior Vatican spokesman backs the claims about permeable condoms, despite assurances by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that they are untrue.


The president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, told Panorama: "The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon.


"The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom.


"These margins of uncertainty should represent an obligation on the part of the health ministries and all these campaigns to act in the same way as they do with regard to cigarettes, which they state to be a danger."


The WHO appear in the programme to counter the Vatican's views, saying: "These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million."


The organisation says consistent and correct condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%.


There may be "breakage or slippage of condoms" but not, the WHO says, holes through which the virus can pass.


Scientific research by a group including the US National Institutes of Health and the WHO found: "intact condoms... are essentially impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens including the smallest sexually transmitted virus, condoms provide a highly effective barrier to transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD viruses."


The Vatican's Cardinal Trujillo says: "They are wrong about that, this is an easily recognisable fact."


The church opposes any kind of contraception because it claims it breaks the link between sex and procreation, a position Pope John Paul II has fought to defend.


In Kenya, where an estimated 20% of people have the HIV virus, the church condemns condoms for promoting promiscuity and repeats the claim about permeability.


The archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Nzeki, said: "Aids... has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms."


Notes to Editors


Please ensure use of the above material is credited to BBC Panorama - Sex and the Holy City.


Panorama - Sex and the Holy City, will be broadcast on BBC ONE at 10.15pm on Sunday 12 October 2003.


Steve Bradshaw is the BBC correspondent for Panorama - Sex and the Holy City.


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