Alarm in Aids groups at election of new Pope

Voluntary sector groups that work in the field of HIV/Aids have reacted with dismay to the election of the ultra-conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

Andy Forrest, communications officer at Stonewall, said that Ratzinger seemed "completely closed".

He added: "It is obviously very disappointing that they have chosen someone with such extreme views on a range of issues, not just homosexuality.

"It is unfortunate that it is someone who refers to the 'deceitful propaganda' of pro-homosexual groups, and the 'intrinsic disorder' of homosexual groups."

Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said he hoped the new Pope would take this "great opportunity" to help tackle the global HIV pandemic.

He said that with no cure or vaccine for HIV, condoms were the most effective means of preventing the spread of the disease. "We urge Pope Benedict XVI to take a fresh approach and encourage millions of people around the world to protect themselves from HIV," he added.

The reaction from Catholic aid agency Cafod was muted. Cafod, which claims to give its beneficiaries all the facts about the transmission of HIV despite the church's hard line on condom use, said it welcomed Ratzinger's elevation. But director Chris Bain said: "We hope that Benedict XVI will work tirelessly to fight for the poor, the sick and the stigmatised.

"We hope he will accept the challenge of this work and engage in the difficult and uncomfortable debates ahead."

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