The International AIDS Society on Friday condemned Pope Benedict XVI's denunciation of condoms as outrageous and insulting, warning that his comments could fuel HIV infection in devout Africa.
IAS Executive Director Craig McClure pointed out that 17 percent of the total population practises Catholicism in Africa, the continent hardest hit by the HIV/AIDs pandemic.
"Catholics throughout Africa rely on the spiritual guidance of the Pope," McClure said in a statement.
"To suggest that condom use contributes to the HIV problem is not merely contrary to scientific evidence and global consensus, it contributes to fueling HIV infection and its consequences - sickness and death.
"Such outrageous comments are not appropriate coming from the highest office in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church," he added.
The society brings together HIV/AIDS professionals and organises the biennial international AIDS conferences that are a major platform for scientific research and best practices to fight the pandemic.
While the Roman Catholic Church's historic stance against contraception was known, it was the first time that a pope had spoken out publicly against the use of condoms to prevent HIV infection for more than 30 years, the IAS said.
Pope Benedict XVI sparked global condemnation with his comments as he began his first visit to Africa as pontiff on Tuesday
Benedict said on the plane taking him to Cameroon that AIDS "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."
The IAS insisted that condoms are a critical, cheap and proven element in HIV prevention.
"Instead of spreading ignorance, the Pope should use his global position of leadership to encourage young people, who are our future, to protect themselves and others from HIV infection using all the tools we have at our disposal, including condoms," said IAS president Julio Montaner.
"His remarks are insulting to the tireless efforts of committed scientific, public health and human rights leaders around the world to protect the poorest of the poor from HIV infection."