Main content

Can Condoms Kill?

It's been called mankind's biggest health disaster: about 40 million people throughout the world are thought to be living with AIDS. For two decades, condoms have been a primary weapon in the fight against AIDS transmission. In 2003 a leading cardinal in the Vatican, Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, insisted that condoms can have holes in them that leak the deadly virus. The major AIDS control agencies say this is not true - that there's no health risk from holes in condoms. The Vatican subsequently published an important document by Trujillo defending and substantiating his position, entitled 'Family Values Versus Safe Sex.' The Vatican's claims caused an outcry.

In CAN CONDOMS KILL?, reporter Steve Bradshaw embarks on a worldwide hunt for the truth, analyzing the 20-page paper prepared by the Vatican - and the references cited in its extensive footnotes - and interviewing leading scientists and AIDS activists who offer their views on the cardinal's controversial claims.

Global efforts to convince people condoms leak were first reported in Panorama's previous film 'Sex and the Holy City'. The film revealed the tactics used by some Catholic conservatives to try to dissuade people from using condoms in the midst of the AIDS pandemic.

In this new film, Bradshaw and his team travel to Brazil, where the Church's claims have caused a row so bitter that the Rio carnival became a protest against the Vatican's claims. While the European Union condemns the Catholic Church for 'bigotry' in its approach to condoms, leading Catholic clergymen in Latin America and Africa say that condoms could actually be making the AIDS epidemic worse - and they say there's a better way of fighting the virus. The film explores HIV prevention in Uganda, where HIV rates have actually gone down, a rare occurrence in Africa. Many Catholics and policy-makers believe that it is abstinence and a return to fidelity and not condoms that are beating HIV there. Bradshaw's team also looks at the legal brothels of Nevada, where it's claimed prostitutes have a 100% success rate in using condoms against HIV.
Through showing both sides of this controversial debate, the film takes a serious look at condom use and AIDS. It asks whether the Vatican can continue its stance against condom use while they are so widely believed to be the best recourse available in stemming the spread of AIDS.