Vatican To Host One-Day International HIV/AIDS Conference In May

The Vatican on Thursday announced it “will host an international conference in May on preventing [HIV/AIDS] and caring for those afflicted with it amid continued confusion over its position concerning condoms as a way to prevent HIV transmission,” the Associated Press reports.

During a press conference, Monsignor Jean-Marie Mpendawatu Mate Musivi, undersecretary in the Vatican health office, “told reporters Thursday that the Vatican’s position would be explained at the May 28 conference, to which the head of UNAIDS [Michel Sidibe] and other prominent AIDS researchers had been invited,” according to the AP.

“In a book-length interview last year, Benedict said condoms are not a ‘real or moral solution’ to the AIDS epidemic, but that their use by someone intending to prevent infection could ‘be a first step in the direction of a moralization’ of sexuality,” Religion News Service/USA Today writes (Rocca, 2/4).

The AP describes some of the positive and negative reactions generated by Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on condoms made in December. The pope “sparked such confusion that the Vatican had to issue three official clarifications, the last of which came Dec. 21 from the authoritative Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” the news service writes.

“Mate Musivi stressed that the church’s position about how to fight AIDS goes well beyond the question of condoms and focuses on prevention programs at the school, community and family levels,” all of which will be discussed at the upcoming meeting (Winfield, 2/3).

Following the one-day conference, the Vatican plans to publish a handbook on HIV/AIDS prevention, Religion News Service/USA Today writes. According to the news service, the document will “include notes on Benedict’s comments on the morality of using condoms to help stem the spread of the disease” (Rocca, 2/4).

“UNAIDS said Thursday it was interested in attending, but that its executive director, Michel Sidibe, couldn’t commit at this point. Agency spokesman Edward Mishaud noted that Sidibe had welcomed the pope’s comments back in November when the book came out,” the AP reports (2/4).