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Researchers refute speculation on AIDS prevention in AIDS journal

Describe the methodological limitations of a letter linking increased condom use among African Catholics to Benedict XVI's 2010 statements

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From left to right, Cristina López del Burgo, Jokin de Irala, Silvia Carlos and Alfonso Osorio. PHOTO: Carlota Cortés
18/03/14 18:59 Isabel Solana

Researchers from the University of Navarra have published a letter to publisher in AIDS, a high impact scientific journal on AIDS. The authors are Alfonso Osorio, Silvia Carlos and Cristina Lopez del Burgo, from the project 'Education of Affectivity and Human Sexuality' of the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS), which is headed by Full Professor of Preventive Medicine Jokin de Irala. Dr. Osorio is also a professor of the School of Education and Psychology and Drs. Carlos and López del Burgo, of the School of Medicine.

In their text they respond to another letter that recently appeared in AIDS, entitled: "The Pope as prevention? Condom use by Catholics increased in 5 HIV-endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa during the pontificate of Benedict XVI."

The author reviews the data of condom use in five African countries around 2005 and compares them with those of 2011. He states that condom use among the Catholic population in these countries increased during the pontificate of Benedict XVI and suggests that the increase may be due to statements the then Pope made on this issue in November 2010 in the book Light of the World that would have led Catholics to resort more to condom use.

Other factors and preventive campaigns

Specialists at the University of Navarra describe the obvious methodological limitations of this work, thus invalidating the link between Benedict XVI's words and the increase in condom use. For example, they point out that "there is no analysis of what other factors or preventive campaigns may have influenced condom use. Nor has it been taken into account that its use has also increased among Protestants, who do not necessarily follow the Pope's teachings".

Furthermore, they stress that "the 2011 condom use data come from surveys initiated both before and a few months after Benedict XVI's words," so they do not consider it reasonable "to attribute such a striking increase in his employment to those comments and in such a short time after them."