The Church and HIV today; is the Pope on board for the pill?

Earlier in March this year, Dr Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, met with Pope Francis. The announcement that followed that meeting could be one of the biggest steps in slowing down the spread of HIV. Yes, that’s correct, the Roman Catholic Church may become a huge player in […]

Homoculture News and Politics Kevin Moroso

Pope Francis and the Catholic church may become a big player in HIV prevention.

Earlier in March this year, Dr Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, met with Pope Francis. The announcement that followed that meeting could be one of the biggest steps in slowing down the spread of HIV. Yes, that’s correct, the Roman Catholic Church may become a huge player in prevention!

For years, the Church has probably been one of the biggest causes for the spread of this virus and has undoubtedly been complicit in the deaths of thousands, perhaps over a million. Their dogmatic approach to the use of condoms has been immoral. While there has been a slight crack in that dogma in recent years, with Pope Benedict saying that the use of condoms by male prostitutes may actually be a step towards a moral life (he tells us he’s an expert on that subject), this was an exception and no changes in Church doctrine occurred.

This is not to say that the Church has been evil in its totality. When it comes to treatment, the Church is the largest provider of healthcare to people living with HIV and AIDS worldwide and many of the individuals working for it have provided compassionate and even inclusive care. The Church has 5,000 hospitals and 18,000 dispensaries worldwide, with a huge concentration in the developing world.

And this is why this recent news is so big. The Vatican has endorsed the Treatment as Prevention (TasP) strategy pioneered by Dr Montaner in British Columbia. Putting people on treatment as soon as they test positive is now a solid strategy to bring a person’s viral load down to an undetectable level, reducing the risk of people passing on the virus by at least 96%, and possibly 99%. As one of the largest providers of treatment worldwide, the Church’s network has the ability to dramatically reduce new infections. As well, the political clout it has worldwide to get countries to adopt this strategy may also be a game changer.

So the next question is… what about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the use of a daily pill that negative people can use to prevent HIV infection? The Church’s opposition to condoms is partly predicated on that fact that it facilitates fornication and prevents procreation. However, PrEP actually enables the latter. Between TasP and PrEP, the risk of transmission is reduced to a near zero probability and this enables serodiscordant straight couples to have children. And while that would be great in and of itself, would the Church also be willing to provide it to anyone that is high risk, especially two of the largest groups at risk, men who have sex with men and sex trade workers? Or would that be too close to enabling fornication?

If the Church were to endorse both TasP and PrEP, between its network and its clout, we could have the end of the epidemic in sight. Don’t hold your breath that the Catholic Church is about to begin handing out Truvada as PrEP like it does communion wafers. But certainly all can see the positive news in its endorsement of TasP.

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One thought on “The Church and HIV today; is the Pope on board for the pill?

  1. Russell

    Your article contains interesting speculation about the pope’s approach to HIV+ treatment but IMHO, beyond TasP, it’s most probably wishful thinking.

    Last month you wrote about gay people becoming seduced by a heteronormative mindset. In fact the Catholic Church is one of the most prolific purveyors of heteronormativity on the planet. The church insists that sex isn’t moral unless it’s tied to marriage and procreation and believes that procreation without limits is moral. In fact the close to runaway human population growth over the past century is the underlying reason human activities are credited with altering the planet’s ecosystem.

    The Church and other religion based conservative ideologies linking sex to procreation and marriage are the most immoral influences masquerading as morality in the world that now exists.

    Gay people are vulnerable to being seduced into becoming uncritical pawns of such agendas because of their current battles for equality. In that regard gay people who unthinkingly adapt a heteronormative mindset are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    In the brave new world of the future, the relationship between sex, procreation, and marriage hopefully will become as unfashionable as tobacco smoking is now.

    Removing stigmas associated with homosexual attraction will allow people to follow their natural impulses. Marriage will be what some people choose, but will be but one of many available options people find fulfilling. And (hopefully) “married with children” will become as quaint as “church on Sunday” is for many people now!

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