The World Health Organisation (WHO) Monday defied the Philippines' Catholic Church by criticising its bishops' opposition to the use of condoms as a means of preventing the spread of HIV-AIDS.
Although the WHO statement did not mention the church by name, its statement directly contradicted bishops' recent claims that condoms are too porous and do not work in preventing the spread of infection.
Dr Massimo Ghidinelli, the WHO's regional adviser on HIV-AIDS, said the WHO statement was "intended to clarify some of these regularly returning questions and doubts about the effectiveness of condoms."
He said these doubts and questions were raised as part of a "wave of criticism and opposition to condoms," apparently referring to the church's anti-condom campaign.
Catholic bishops, whose church claims over 80 percent of Filipinos as its followers, have been attacking the government openly after health officials distributed free condoms to mark Valentine's Day.
"Given its high failure rate, the condom cannot really put a stop to AIDS. Moreover, by creating a false sense of security, it... contributes to the further spread of AIDS," the bishops said.
Ghidinelli told AFP that claims made in the bishops' statement were "not correct and the message given to the public is not based on available evidence."
Without naming the church, he stressed that the benefit of condoms in preventing the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases had been scientifically confirmed.
The WHO statement also warned that HIV-AIDS was a "growing concern" in the Philippines, with the number of newly reported infections increasing from one every three days in 2000 to two infections per day in 2009.
Sexual intercourse was the main mode of HIV transmission, it said.