Pope Benedict XVI today added to the controversy over the Catholic church’s stance on condoms when he argued that they were not the answer to Africa’s fight against HIV and Aids and could even make the problem worse.

Speaking on his first trip to the continent, the pontiff told journalists on his flight to Cameroon that the condition was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

Pope Benedict has previously encouraged sexual abstinence as a way of combating the disease.

After being elected, he said the “traditional teaching of the Church” on chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it had proved to be “the only sure way of preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS”.

Rebecca Hodes, from the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, said if the pope is serious about preventing new HIV infections, he should concentrate on promoting wide access to condoms and spreading information on how best to use them.

“Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans,” she said.

Hodes added that while condoms are not the sole solution to Africa’s AIDS epidemic, they are one of the very few HIV prevention mechanisms proven to work.

In December Pope Benedict claimed that the existence of gay people is as great a threat to humanity as the destruction of the rainforest.

He also attacked transgender people and claimed that a “blurring” of genders would lead to the extinction of the human race.

The pontiff made his remarks in an “end of year” address to the Vatican’s central administration, the Curia.

The Pope said behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations is “a destruction of God’s work.”

Benedict also said man must be protected “from the destruction of himself” and urged respect for the “nature of the human being as man and woman.”

“The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”