Contrary to scientific advice, the Vatican is urging people the world over not to use condoms, claiming that they do not help protect against the deadly HIV virus, a BBC investigation has revealed.
Vatican leaders claim HIV, being several times smaller than the sperm, can pass through tiny holes in condoms.
The claims, extracts of which were released to the media, were made in the BBC programme Panorama, in an edition entitled 'Sex and the Holy City.'
'The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. (It) can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom,' president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, told the programme to be telecast on Sunday.
The church opposes any kind of contraception because it claims it breaks the link between sex and procreation.
Meanwhile, Archbishop of Nairobi Raphael Ndingi Nzeki said condoms were helping to spread the virus. 'AIDS has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms,' he said.
Scientific research by a group including the US National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organisation, quoted by the programme revealed 'intact condoms are essentially impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens including the smallest sexually transmitted virus...condoms provide a highly effective barrier to transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD viruses.'
'Statements like this are quite dangerous,' a WHO spokesperson told the BBC.