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Conscience Magazine

Increased Condom Use in Sub-Saharan Africa after Pope Benedict’s Affirmation of Condoms for HIV Prevention

February 19, 2014

A study published in the November 2013 issue of the scientific journal AIDS demonstrated that during Benedict XVI’s tenure as pope, condom use increased among Catholics in Cameroon, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe—by an average of 71.5 percent in a sample of men and women combined.

A research team led by Dr. Jan-Walter De Neve compiled data on condom use at last sexual intercourse from household surveys conducted during the years of Benedict’s pontificate, which lasted from 2005-2013. The five countries were selected as those for which Catholics represented a significant proportion of the population and where HIV prevalence was endemic (affecting between 2.9 and 14.9 percent of the population). The author wrote that the improvement may have come about as a direct result of the pope’s statement approving condoms for certain situations, or indirectly through Catholic leaders, organizations and institutions influenced by Benedict’s new stance. Either way, De Neve suggested that “further research should aim to examine … the potential effects of a papal policy that would fully legitimize condom use (rather than on a case-by-case basis).”