Epidemiologist: Pope Is Right About Condoms

Says Issue Is a «Prisoner of Ideology»

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PARIS, SEPT. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- There is a lack of realism in debate about condoms, according to a French epidemiologist who maintains that Benedict XVI’s assertion that condom use can actually aggravate the AIDS crisis is «simply realistic.»

René Ecochard, director of the biostatistics department at Lyon’s University Hospital Center, signed a document last April supporting his case.

Speaking this week with France’s La Manche Libre, Ecochard explained that there is «a lack of realism» on the condom issue, which he called a «prisoner of ideology.»

This ideology brought an uproar in the Western press when Benedict XVI said en route to Africa on March 17 that the «problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help [by responsible behavior], the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it.»

Ecochard contended: It seems as though «opinion loses its points of reference when it addresses the issues of sexuality and the family.»
The doctor acknowledged that part of the problem was «an error of understanding in public opinion.»

He explained: «People thought that the Pope was speaking of the efficacy of the plastic, the condom, when in reality he was speaking of the campaigns to spread the condom. This is very different.
«As is true of every technological object of prevention, the condom has a quantified efficacy.»

But therein is not the problem, Ecochard stated, «All epidemiologists agree today that the campaigns to distribute [condoms] in countries where the proportion of affected people is very high, do not work.»
«If the condom works four out of five times,» this might be sufficient «when AIDS is not widespread,» he explained. «However, in a country in which 25% of young people 25 years old are affected — Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia — it isn’t sufficient.

«The failure of this form of prevention is an epidemiological reality.
«Surrounded by experts, well informed by Rome’s Academy of Sciences, the Pope mastered this issue very well before going to Africa.»

Ecochard went on to reflect on the case of Uganda, the only country in which 25-year-old AIDS victims has been cut in third.

Ne noted that in Uganda, in addition to campaigns supporting condom distribution, there has been the ABC campaign: «Abstain, Be faithful, chastity or the condom.»
«The presidential couple, religious groups, schools and businesses — the whole world has supported this campaign,» Ecochard noted. «It might be that this is not easy to copy from one country to another, but today, it’s the only hope.»

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