Harvard director backs pope on condoms


THE DIRECTOR of Harvard University’s HIV Prevention Research Project has supported Pope Benedict’s recent controversial claim that condom distribution was exacerbating the problem of Aids in Africa.

Explaining that he was not a Catholic and that he was not talking about condoms “in any sort of moral-ethical sense”, Dr Edward Green said that he was “talking about what has been found to work and not work”.

Interviewed yesterday by William Crawley on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme, Dr Green said studies had shown that “there is not a single country in Africa where HIV prevalence has come down primarily because of condoms”.

“We now see HIV going down in about eight or nine countries in Africa and in every case, we see a decrease in the proportion of men and women who report having more than one sex partner in the past year. So, when the pope said that the answer really lies in monogamy and marital faithfulness, that’s exactly what we found empirically.

“We have for a number of years now found the wrong kind of association between condom-availability and levels of condom use. You see the wrong kind of relationship with HIV prevalence.

“Instead of seeing this associated with lower HIV infection rates, it’s actually associated with higher HIV infection rates. Part of that is because the people using condoms are the people who are having risky sex.”

Studies in Uganda had found that people for whom condoms had been made available “were found to have a greater number of sex partners. So that cancels out the risk reduction that the technology of condoms ought to provide. That’s the phenomenon known as risk compensation.”

Dr Green added: “Condoms work in certain types of situations and [with] certain sub-populations and condoms have had a positive national impact in certain concentrated epidemics, so yes, I don’t agree with the pope across the board.”