Ross presents a middle approach between the Church and the AIDS establishment in Africa:

[I]t's my impression - created, in large part, by reading Helen Epstein's The Invisible Cure [...] that an awful lot of the money poured into condom-promotion over the years would have much been better spent promoting "partner reduction" in cultures inclined to promiscuity and de facto polygamy instead. This isn't the same as promoting abstinence exclusively, and indeed, Epstein is witheringly critical of some of the abstinence-only programs that American dollars have funded in the Bush era. But "partner reduction" is a lot more consonant with the Catholic Church's longstanding position - that it's better to promote monogamy and fidelity than to take promiscuity as a given and make it as safe as possible - than you'd think from the overheated talk about how the Vatican's flat-earth position on condoms has cost millions of lives.

But there is, of course, a huge lacuna in this argument: men who have sex with men. For gay men in Africa, the church neither opposes condom use nor supports monogamy, fidelity or even partner reduction; it favors malign neglect.

If pushed, it argues for total abstinence and, in fact, passionate opposition to all laws that encourage partnering that would, in the long run, reduce HIV transmission. And in the denial of homosexuality in Africa, the church has had willing accomplices among the Bush administration, and many African governments.

In the US, of course, the country where Ross lives, the greatest toll of HIV has taken place among gay men. In one generation, around 300,000 of us died. As this happened, the church was largely silent and even now, perpetuates the notion that only abstinence is permissible, and that homosexuality itself should remain stigmatized. Where is the moral argument there? Or is there no argument, just indifference and callousness toward a community that got what was coming to it?

I'd love to know whether Ross favors partner reduction for straights, but only abstinence for gays. Or whether he thinks continued Catholic opposition to any recognition or support for gay couples is part of the HIV solution.

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