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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.

'The central question of the film is appropriate and yet chilling in this day and age. [Can Condoms Kill?] is a wonderful and helpful resource to use as a classroom tool to begin to discuss the touchy topics of sex out of marriage, the power imbalance between men and women globally, religiosity, improvised communities, understanding scientific research findings and how it can be misinterpreted, as well as the overarching question of the terrible pandemic of HIV and AIDS. With numerous challenges in stemming the tide of death due to a disease that is truly devastating and destroying not only individuals lives but whole communities and countries it seems timely and appropriate to raise the question as simple as possible. That is why the film Can Condoms Kills? is brilliant and timely.' Beatriz Solis, Chicano Studies Department, California State University at Northridge and Ethnic, Gender and Women's Studies Department, California Polytechnic University, Pomona

'Can Condoms Kill? is recommended without reservation simply because it will invoke an engaging conversation.' Educational Media Reviews Online


Main credits

Stark, Tony (film producer)
Robinson, Mike (editor of moving image work)
Mister, John (editor of moving image work)
Bradshaw, Steve (narrator)

Other credits

Editor, Mike Robinson; film editor, John Mister.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

African Studies
Developing World
Global Issues
Reproductive Rights
Science, Technology, Society


Catholic Church, condoms, HIV transmission, Vatican, Cardinal Trujillo, Steve Bradshaw, AIDS activists, Brazil, Rio carnival, European Union, HIV prevention, Uganda, abstinence, fidelity, Nevada brothels,; "Can Condoms Kill?"; Bullfrog Films