Friday, February 15, 2002

From combined dispatches

In comments sure to infuriate conservatives in the Republican Party as well as the Vatican, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday urged the world’s youth to use condoms to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.

In a global forum with young adults in seven cities around the world to be broadcast internationally by MTV, Mr. Powell said the international community had to “forget about conservative ideas” regarding sex in order to combat the scourge of AIDS.

“It’s important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you shouldn’t tell young people about,” Mr. Powell said.

“It’s the lives of young people who are put at risk by unsafe sex and, therefore, protect yourself,” he said.

Mr. Powell’s comments, as reported by Agence France-Presse, are at odds with the Bush administration, which has focused on promoting abstinence as the way to combat sexually transmitted diseases.

His comments, in response to a question from a young Catholic woman in Milan, Italy, did not include the word “abstinence,” which also had been pushed heavily by the Vatican and Pope John Paul II.

Mr. Powell said he respected the opinion of the church but did not agree with it.

“I certainly respect the views of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church,” he said, adding, however, that “in my own judgment, condoms are a way to prevent infection and, therefore, I support their use.”

Mr. Powell’s remarks were criticized yesterday by some conservatives.

“The secretary of state is certainly skilled in areas of diplomacy, but regarding public health issues, he should follow the lead of the Bush administration which he serves,” said Gary L. Bauer, president of American Values.

“In the war against sexually transmitted disease, with the destroyed lives left in its wake, the condom is no magic bullet. In fact, it’s very little protection at all,” Mr. Bauer said.

On a related subject, Mr. Powell told a young HIV-positive Brazilian woman in Sao Paulo that he would like to see free anti-AIDS drugs be made available but that market economics probably would not allow it.

“We have to … protect the industries that develop these drugs,” he said. “There has to be some return on the investment that drug companies make in the research.”

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