Europe

Carla Bruni praises Pope over condoms on World Aids Day

Carla Bruni at a gala dinner in Paris for the French Aids/HIV charity AIDES, 27 November
Image caption Carla Bruni acts as an ambassador for a fund to combat Aids

French first lady Carla Bruni has publicly thanked Pope Benedict for saying the use of condoms to prevent HIV/Aids may be justified.

She said in an interview to mark World Aids Day that she was "astonished, surprised and grateful" for the Pope's remarks, publicised last month.

"I think this is quite an enormous step towards something very new," President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife said.

Her brother Virginio died in 2006 of an Aids-related illness.

Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy has long campaigned for HIV/Aids awareness and acts as an ambassador for the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

She strongly criticised the Pope last year, saying the Roman Catholic Church's disapproval of condoms "damaged" countries in Africa, and left her feeling "profoundly secular".

She had been responding to a comment from the Pope on a visit to Africa in which he said condoms would not resolve the continent's HIV/Aids problem.

This November, the Pope was quoted in a book as saying that condoms could be used in certain circumstances.

Clarifying his comments, the Vatican said the use of condoms use by men and women to prevent HIV could be an act of "responsibility".

Appeal against complacency

"I have been touched by the very recent declaration by Pope Benedict XVI and am grateful," Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy told France's RTL radio station.

"A number of African countries are Christian and take great heed of what the Pope says."

Speaking about complacency over the virus, she said: "Even when it is not too virulent, the courses of treatment are very hard.

"It is very serious to catch HIV nowadays... I would like to say to young people that they shouldn't think it's like an aspirin to be taken daily."

Talking about her late brother, who died in his 40s, the Italian-born first lady said he had been lucky enough to receive the best treatment available in France.

"Many people do not have access to that..." she said.

"My brother unfortunately capitulated before this illness but we should keep on fighting it, and keep trying to offer everything he was given to all the people of this world, if possible."

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