A little over a week after Pope Benedict XVI said condoms worsen the problem of HIV/AIDS, a prominent French bishop told a French radio station on Friday that condoms gave ineffective protection against the deadly virus.
'You know very well, and all the scientists know it: the AIDS virus is infinitely smaller than a sperm. This is proof that the condom is not a 100 per cent guarantee against AIDS,' said the bishop of the central French city of Orleans, Andre Fort, in an interview with Radio France.
'On a cigarette pack there is written 'Danger'. We should be writing on a box of condoms: Reliability doubtful,' Fort added.
On his first visit to Africa last week, Benedict said sexual abstinence was the best way to fight HIV/AIDS. He was on his way to Cameroon, where over half a million inhabitants are infected with the virus.
"The problem cannot be overcome with the distribution of condoms. This only aggravates the problem," said Benedict.
Fort's comments came the same day that the prominent British medical journal 'The Lancet' slammed Benedict's comments about condoms. The editorial in the journal's current edition accused the pontiff of 'publicly distorting science' and asked him to retract his comments.
"By saying that condoms exacerbate the problem of HIV/AIDS, the Pope has publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue," said the editorial.
"Whether the Pope's error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear.
"When any influential person, be it a religious or political leader, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record," the editorial stated.
"Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics, who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide."
The Vatican has faced strong criticism over its opposition to the use of condoms despite findings by the United Nations' World Health Organisation that "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90 percent.
HIV/AIDS has killed more than 25 million people - mainly in sub-Saharan Africa - since it was discovered in the 1980's.
Over 22 million people currently live with the HIV virus in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Catholic Church opposes any kind of contraception because it claims sex must only be for procreation.
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