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.

More News to Cheer About

  • This week a number of high-profile and activist Latino men–including Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr.–gathered in New York to condemn domestic violence. At the event sponsored by the New-York based National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence, Carrion and others drove home the point that domestic violence is not just a women’s issue.
  • The largest number of alleged sex offenders ever captured in a single law enforcement operation–1,102–were arrested during the week of April 17 in a 27-state sweep led by the U.S. Marshals Service, Bloomberg News reported April 27. The event was timed to highlight National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
  • For the first time, the country of Kuwait will begin recruiting women to join its police force in September 2006, the Kuwait News Agency reported April 27. In Pakistan, the army announced that it will start recruiting and training female officers for active combat duty, the Associated Press reported April 22. Women have not part of a combat force in Pakistan’s 500,000-member army.
  • A study of over 1,500 men around the world who received injections or implants of hormonal contraception found that those men recovered full fertility levels in three to four months, the Lancet reported in its April 29 issue. The analysis from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute is expected to assuage some fears that male contraceptive use can create permanent infertility and speed up the approval of the treatments, researchers said.
  • Eighteen “grannies” from the anti-war Granny Peace Brigade who were jailed for four hours after being arrested for blocking the entrance to a Times Square military recruitment center in New York were acquitted of charges on April 27, The New York Times reported. The judge ruled that the women did not block entry to the recruitment center.

For more information:

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.

More News to Jeer About

  • An April 25 survey conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, a Northbrook, Ill.-based market research company, found that nearly 1 in 5 teens who have been in a serious relationship said their partner would threaten to hurt themselves or them if there were a break-up. The study also found that 30 percent of all teens report worrying about their personal physical safety in a relationship.


  • Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Lester Crawford and other high-ranking FDA officials gave testimony in a lawsuit that claims the agency did not follow its procedures when it first denied an application to approve the emergency contraceptive Plan B for over-the-counter distribution, Newsday reported April 24. A November, 2005 congressional report found that politics influenced the scientific decision-making process at the agency.
  • Maryland Democrat Lise Van Susteren has abandoned her run for the U.S. Senate, saying she “fell short in terms of resources,” the Washington Post reported April 21. Van Susteren was the only woman among those seeking statewide office in Maryland in a year crowded with candidates running for senator and governor.

Elizabeth Dwoskin is an editorial intern with Women’s eNews. She is a freelance writer and radio producer based in New York.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].