Handing out condoms is not the solution for combatting AIDS, Pope Benedict XVI said on Tuesday while en route to Yaounde, Cameroon, for his first trip as pontiff to Africa.
AIDS "is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems," the pontiff said.
"The solution lies in a spiritual and human awakening and friendship for those who suffer," he said.
Sub-Saharan Africa is more heavily affected by AIDS than any other region of the world.
Southern Africa bears a disproportionate share of the global HIV burden, with 35 per cent of the world's new infections and 38 per cent of AIDS deaths in 2007.
Last year about 60 Catholic groups wrote an open letter to Benedict urging him to reverse the Vatican's opposition to contraception.
The ban on condoms "exposes millions of people to the risk of contracting the AIDS virus," they said.
The pope, who is scheduled to land in Yaounde at around 4:00 pm (1500 GMT), will also travel to Angola during his week-long trip.