You know what Africans love? AIDS. Getting it, spreading it—doesn’t matter. It’s their favorite thing. I mean, it must be, right? Because why else would the HIV/AIDS rate be so high over there? It can’t possibly have anything to do with things like economic conditions and access to prevention education and condoms.
Just ask Pope Benedict XVI, who denounced condoms during a visit to Africa earlier this month.
According to The Guardian, the pope said that AIDS “cannot be overcome with the distribution of condoms which, on the contrary, increase the problem.”
Realizing after the fact that this made him sound like an asshole, the Vatican’s revised Pope B’s statement, which became, “The scourge cannot be resolved with the distribution of prophylactics; on the contrary, the risk is of increasing the problem.”
While this softens his message, it doesn’t make it any less ignorant.
“Did the pope not know when he arrived in Cameroon that HIV-positive people represent a large proportion of the population?” Alain Fogue, an AIDS activist in the region, told The Guardian.
“The people will not follow what the pope is saying,” Fogue added. “He lives in heaven and we are on earth. Whether he likes it or not, 99 out of 100 Catholics use the condom today. The pope has to know that the flesh is weak.”
Indeed it is. Perhaps where the pope lives everyone abstains from sex before marriage and then, after getting married, has sex only to produce children and never has sex with anyone else ever, but that’s not the world we live in.
The pope is a bit out of touch, to say the least. But then, that seems to be part of the job description.
The fact is, monogamy is hard work and not everyone succeeds. Abstinence, too, is hard work for those striving for it. To condemn these people to a death sentence by denying them condoms (or just telling them not to use them) is criminal.
Rebecca Hodes of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa told the Associated Press that the pope’s “opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”
And if religious dogma is more important to you than protecting and saving lives, then what kind of man of God are you, sir?
To say that condoms are part of the problem is not only ignorant, it’s also dishonest. Because even the pope knows that condoms don’t spread AIDS. Sex does. And the pope no likey sex.
Sure, he could come right out and say that. But it’s a lot easier to blame condoms. To tell the people of Africa to stop having sex is to tell them to stop engaging in a basic, normal human function. Condoms, on the other hand, are not a basic, normal human function. They’re an artificial barrier between you and disease and pregnancy. They don’t make anyone have sex—something anti-sex crusaders seem to forget.
The pope’s anti-condom comments were renounced worldwide.
“Condoms save lives,” Germany’s health ministers said according to The Guardian. “Modern assistance to the developing world today must make access to family planning available to the poorest of the poor especially the use of condoms. Anything else would be irresponsible.”
These are, after all, human lives, not papal window dressings. Someone needs to remind the pope.
D’Anne Witkowski has been gay for pay since 2003. She’s a freelance writer and poet (believe it!). When she’s not taking on the creeps of the world she reviews rock and roll shows in Detroit with her twin sister and teaches writing at the University of Michigan.