- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

VATICAN CITY The Vatican yesterday repeated its opposition to using condoms as a way to fight AIDS, saying that chastity was the best way to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Monsignor Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Workers, acknowledged that to some, the Vatican position may sound "ridiculous in the society in which we live."
But he said there was only one way to prevent AIDS and the HIV virus from spreading. "We say that prevention is called chastity."
Monsignor Barragan made the comments ahead of a three-day Vatican symposium on health care in Catholic hospitals and clinics around the world.
The Vatican has been criticized for its steadfast opposition to condom use, particularly in poor regions of the world like Africa that have been devastated by the AIDS epidemic.
More than 90 percent of the world's 37.1 million HIV-infected people live in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 26 million or 70 percent of the total, U.S. and United Nations statistics show.
The church has argued that condoms don't offer 100 percent protection and only contribute to what Monsignor Barragan called a "pan-sexual" society in which sex has been separated into an act of pleasure or procreation.
"In this separation, according to this mentality, it's absurd that the church says 'no' to condoms," he said. "But we have another ethical horizon: That is life."
Two years ago, a Vatican official hinted at a potential softening in the church's position, writing in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that condoms were one of the ways to "contain" the spread of HIV.
The author, Monsignor Jacques Suadeau of the Pontifical Council for the Family, stressed that chastity was the only way to prevent the spread of the virus, but that in the case of Thai sex workers, for example, condom use was a "lesser evil."
Monsignor Suadeau later denied he was signaling a change.

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