YAOUNDE - Pope Benedict XVI headed to AIDS-ravaged Africa yesterday, standing firm against the use of condoms and saying they were not a solution to combating the disease.
AIDS "is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems," the 81-year-old pontiff said. The solution lies in a "spiritual and human awakening" and "friendship for those who suffer," said Benedict, who will visit Cameroon and Angola during the weeklong trip.
The trip is Benedict's first as pontiff to Africa, and during his Sunday Angelus blessing he said he wanted to wrap his arms around the entire continent, with "its painful wounds, its enormous potential and hopes."
Sub-Saharan Africa is more heavily affected by AIDS than any other region of the world. Nearly two-thirds of all adults and children with HIV live in the region, according to a 2006 report by UNAIDS. AIDS prevention is a subject that often puts the Vatican at odds with international health organizations, since the Roman Catholic Church advocates abstinence as the only effective way of preventing the spread of AIDS and opposes campaigns for the use of condoms.