Pope Advocates Education to Prevent AIDS

Monday, January 24th 2005, 9:51 am
By: News On 6

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Education, chastity and sexual fidelity are the responsible methods to combat AIDS, Pope John Paul II said Saturday, reiterating Vatican policy days after Spanish bishops supported condom use to fight the disease but then quickly reversed their position.

The Vatican has come under fire from AIDS activists because it forbids use of condoms, even to prevent transmission of the HIV virus.

``The Holy See ... considers that it is necessary above all to combat this disease in a responsible way by increasing prevention, notably through education about respect of the sacred value of life and formation about the correct practice of sexuality, which presupposes chastity and fidelity,'' John Paul told the Netherlands' new ambassador to the Holy See, Monique Patricia Antoinette Frank, who presented her credentials to the pontiff.

The pope's comments came days after Spanish bishops made front-page headlines by announcing an apparent change in policy toward condom use. On Tuesday, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference, said ``condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS.''

But on Wednesday night, the conference issued a statement saying the bishop's comments ``must be understood in the context of Catholic doctrine, which holds that use of condoms is immoral sexual conduct.''

Spain's gay groups reacted by saying they regretted the church's return to old policy after its ``attack of lucidity.''

The pope said the church has mobilized itself on behalf of AIDS victims, especially by insisting they be assured access to necessary treatment.

On Friday, the pope told members of a Vatican council on health care issues that they should pay special attention to AIDS victims.

In his speech to the ambassador, John Paul also spoke of the need for ``absolute respect for human life, from conception to natural death,'' in a reference to abortion and euthanasia, both of which the church forbids.

The Netherlands legalized euthanasia, or doctor-assisted suicide, in 2001 in cases where the patient is in unbearable pain and there is no hope of recovery. Last month, a Dutch medical commission, in a nonbinding report, said euthanasia should also be allowed for those who are not physically ill but are suffering mentally and don't want to live.