Pope Benedict XVI described the HIV/AIDS pandemic as an "ethical problem" as he presented his vision for Catholic Church's future in Africa during his second visit to the continent.
The comments were delivered in a 135-page pastoral document as His Holiness wrapped a 3-day pastoral trip the West African nation of Benin ... a heavily Catholic nation and the heartland of voodoo, reports AFP.
Changes in behaviour are needed to combat the disease, including sexual abstinence and rejection of promiscuity, it adds. "The problem of AIDS in particular clearly calls for a medical and a pharmaceutical response," it says. "This is not enough however. The problem goes deeper. Above all, it is an ethical problem."
"That echoes a comment of the pontiff's from 2009 on his first Africa trip, when he caused a global outcry when he said using condoms 'can even exacerbate' the problem of HIV/AIDS," reports Deutsche Press.
Benin's HIV rate is just 1.2 per cent. The UN AIDS programme says the prevalence of HIV in West Africa actually 'remains comparatively low...estimated at 2% or under in 12 countries in 2009.' Nigeria, a country populated by more than 150 million, has an HIV rate of just 3.6%.
Although West African countries frequently top corruption and poverty indexes, it is southern Africa that carries the weight of HIV/AIDS issues. Swaziland has [the highest rate] of HIV anywhere else in the world [at] 25.9%.
The Catholic Church's criticisms of condom use have been a lightning rod of controversy in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly 70 percent of the world's HIV cases. Aggressive prevention campaigns and condom use in Africa are "driving new cases of infection to the lowest number in years," according to a new report on the global epidemic released by UNAIDS.
The report is in advance of the upcoming United Nations and UNAIDS sponsored International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ICASA 2011 will discuss prevention and criminalization issues around men who have sex with men. More than 10,000 people are expected to ICASA 2011 which begins December 4.