Australian AIDS organisations have cautiously welcomed comments by Pope Benedict XVI that appear to condone condom use in preventing the spread of HIV.

As recently as last year Benedict had claimed that HIV “cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

But in a soon to be released book of interviews with the pontiff, Benedict implies there are circumstances where condom use is a least-bad option.

“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step … on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants,” wrote Benedict.

However, ultimately HIV had to be dealt with by, “a humanisation of sexuality”- or living by church guidelines.

Benedict was then asked if he was saying that the Church was not opposed in principle to the use of condoms.

In reply, Benedict said, “In this or that case, there can be … in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”

Benedict remains opposed to the use of condoms for the purpose of contraception.

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) Executive Director Don Baxter welcomed the comments, but said they needed to be followed up by action and by taking responsibility for opposing condom use in the past.

“This represent a fundamental change in the Vatican longer term policy in relation to condom use and HIV because it raises the question, that if condoms are appropriate for male sex workers then why not for everyone else in the context of preventing HIV transmission,” he told the Star Observer.

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