The Vatican is set to host an HIV prevention conference on May 28, during which it will clarify its position on condom use to prevent the spread of the virus.
The catholic church's stance on the morality of health issues, especially when it comes to diseases like HIV/AIDS has always been significant, even if some scientists would prefer to ignore it, because of the large catholic populations in countries in Africa where HIV is so prevalent.
A focus on abstinence rather than contraception has in the past also heavily influenced US aid programmes for HIV. In an interview last year that was received with great excitement by UNAIDS, HIV activists and scientists, Pope Benedict XVI said that condom use by prostitutes could be seen as the "first step to moralisation", and that using a condom to prevent HIV transmission was a lesser evil than using contraception.
The Vatican is also about to update its 2008 guidelines on bioethics issues in stem cell research and reproductive technology, but whether those will be as pragmatic as the new stance on condom use remains to be seen.
The last edict had wordy explanations on the Church's position, but all it really came down to was a ban on any such technology. IVF? No. The morning-after pill? No. Gene therapy? No. The 2011 update has allegedly been sparked by a slipping of Catholic standards in hospitals.
In December 2010, an Arizona hospital had its "Catholic" status revoked because it chose to abort a baby to save the pregnant mother's life. The hospital says it is disappointed by the Church's decision but remains steadfast that it took the correct path.
In a press release, the hospital said: "Consistent with our values of dignity and justice, if we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible we will always save the life we can save".
Photo credit: loveleft/flickr