Swedish Minister Talks Condoms on Malta

Swedish foreign trade minister Ewa Björling has had what she calls a very unusual and positive response during her visit to Malta - discussing not only the expected question of commerce and patents and Sweden’s coming European Union presidency, but also the question of AIDS and condoms - otherwise rather taboo subjects in that Catholic island nation with close ties to a anti-condom Vatican.

The Swedish minister is a professor of virology and has long worked with AIDS - and admits she was determined to bring this up with Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

The Swede says to her surprise, an at-first surprised prime minister agreed with her that condoms and safe sex campaigns in Africa are essential to saving lives, and that only healthy people can carry out business and international trade.

The Swedish minister adds that when she travels to places like Africa, she always has condoms in her baggage which she hands out even to Catholic clergy - even if they become angry and provoked-and concludes that she will continue with this kind of international diplomacy.