By Elizabeth Dwoskin
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Going against Roman Catholic Church doctrine and the pope's official stance prohibiting birth control, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, one of the church's most prominent leaders, has condoned a limited use of condoms for people in relationships with a partner who is suffering from AIDS, Reuters reported April 21.
"Certainly the use of condoms in particular situations can constitute a lesser evil," the retired archbishop of Milan and the church's leading moderate told the Italian newspaper L'Espresso.
While Pope Benedict XVI made no official comment after the cardinal's call to ease the condom ban, the Vatican announced three days later that it will soon publish a statement on using condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. The pope has also commissioned a study on the topic.
The cardinal's comments have come at a time when U.S. Agency for International Development researchers have concluded after 20 years studying HIV-AIDS in Africa that male circumcision and fidelity to one partner are more effective at curbing the spread of the disease than promoting abstinence and condom use, the Chicago Tribune reported April 25. There are almost 1.1 billion Catholics in the world.
Microbicides 2006 Conference:
"African Women Test Anti-HIV Gel":
Teen Research Unlimited:
Researchers in the field of microbicides--compounds that can be applied inside the vagina or rectum to protect against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV--expressed concerns about a product reaching the market. In a warning that said an effective microbicide is estimated to be available within six years, researchers expressed concern that regulatory bureaucracy will delay the products from hitting store shelves in developing countries by one and four years after they are available in industrialized nations, the Independent, a South African newspaper, reported April 26.
Researchers are also concerned that the "race" to develop an effective microbicide has sparked a "turf war for human subjects," as the number of clinical trials have multiplied 16 times in developing regions of the world since the products first started being tested 15 years ago.
Melissa May, a spokesperson for the New York-based Population Council, which is conducting clinical trials in South Africa, told Voice of America that, even if approved, microbicides will not be a "magic bullet" in the fight against HIV-AIDS, but as a woman-initiated product they could be "another very important prevention tool."
May pointed out that the decision to use microbicides may not be controlled entirely by women. She also said that marketing the gel-like product as a lubricant rather than as a form of "disease protection" could help women, the majority of whom do not want to use microbicides without their partner's knowledge.
Elizabeth Dwoskin is an editorial intern with Women's eNews. She is a freelance writer and radio producer based in New York.
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