The Church Needs An HIV Positive Saint
There is a disturbing practice, even among some Catholic health care workers, to promote the use of condoms as a preventative measure to limit the spread of the infection. However, our Holy Father has already expressed the teaching that condom use is not the answer to prevent HIV spread, and this has been supported by Harvard AIDS expert Dr. Edward Green. Using condoms may actually increase the spread of AIDS, and only abstinence has been proven truly effective in containing the virus.
In a marriage where one of the partners is HIV positive, is it morally permissible to recommend condoms? No, because the marital act is meant to be both procreative as well as unitive. To separate those two aspects of the marital act is to go against a constant teaching of the Church, since the beginning. “The sexual act carried out with a condom cannot be considered a fully conjugal act as it has been voluntarily deprived of its intrinsic meanings.” (Father Perez-Soba) But isn't condom use in marriage going to prevent the transmission of HIV and prevent death? Not according to the studies by Dr. Edward Green, it may lessen the chances, but you still put your spouse at risk.
So what's a married couple to do? Sexual intimacy/openness to life is one of the goods of marriage, but not the only good. Sexual intimacy is not necessary for survival despite our cultures' insistence that it is. The only real option when a spouse is HIV positive is abstinence. See this article by Dr. May, professor of moral theology at John Paul 2 Institute, Catholic University.
Abstinence in marriage takes heroic virtue and a strong and radical faith in Jesus Christ, but isn't that what we are all called to? One of the ways that Catholics receive the grace to live this life of radical faith is through the intercession of the saints and the example of heroic virtue they provide for us. I hope that in the near future, we may see the canonization of an HIV positive individual, whose heroic virtue allowed them to live abstinently in marriage. Given the ongoing issue of HIV positivity in our world, the Church surely needs a saint who was HIV positive.