VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has opened the door on the previously taboo subject of condoms as a way to fight HIV, saying male prostitutes who use condoms may be beginning to act responsibly. It's a stunning comment for a pontiff who has blamed condoms for making the AIDS crisis worse.
The pope made the comments in an interview with a German journalist published as a book titled "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," which is being released Tuesday. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano ran excerpts on Saturday.
Church teaching has long opposed condoms because they are a form of artificial contraception, although the Vatican has never released an explicit policy about condoms and HIV.
Benedict said that condoms are not a moral solution to stopping AIDS. But he said in some cases, such as for male prostitutes, their use could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."
Benedict made the comment in response to a general question about Africa, where heterosexual HIV spread is rampant.
He used as a specific example male prostitutes, for whom contraception is not usually an issue, but did not mention married couples where one spouse is infected. The Vatican has come under pressure from even church officials to condone condom use for such monogamous married couples to protect the uninfected spouse from transmission.