Pope Benedict XVI's possible shift on condom use is a "significant and positive step forward," the head of the United Nations anti-AIDS campaign said, welcoming the potentially historic remark.
"This move recognizes that responsible sexual behavior and the use of condoms have important roles in HIV prevention," UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe said in a statement.
"This will help accelerate the HIV prevention revolution," he said Saturday.
The Roman Catholic Church firmly opposes artificial contraception, including condoms.
The pope caused a firestorm of protest last year when he spoke out against condoms as a way of controlling AIDS during a trip to Africa, the continent hardest hit by the disease.
"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters in March 2009. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."
But he outlined a possible exception in remarks published Saturday.
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