Friday, February 04, 2005

Council of churches defends use of condoms

Kudos to the South African Council of Churches! The Council has expressed dismay for the risks involved in negating the safety of condoms, in countries in which AIDS is an epidemic.
Johannesburg, South Africa
04 February 2005 04:54

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has expressed shock and dismay at continuing assertions that condoms "don't work" as a means of preventing the spread of HIV.

In a statement released on Friday, secretary general Molefe Tsele said the SACC believes that all credible scientific studies conclude that the virus that causes Aids cannot pass through a latex condom.

"When used properly, condoms are effective in halting transmission of the virus," Tsele said.

He also lashed out at claims that Uganda's "apparent success" in decreasing HIV prevalence rates is largely due to abstinence and fidelity while downplaying the role of condoms.

"Condom distribution was a key aspect of the multifaceted programme pioneered by the Ugandan government," said Tsele.

"Scientific studies of Uganda's record have shown that delaying one's first experience of sexual intercourse, reducing the number of sexual partners, and using condoms all played important roles in curbing the spread of the disease."

He accused the United States President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) of fuelling the resurgent moral conservatism behind the emerging war on condoms.

"Pepfar is legally obliged to commit at least one-third of its resources to programmes that stress "abstinence until marriage" as the primary prescription for halting the spread of HIV.

"Although the plan does not rule out condom distribution ... reports indicate that many organisations have curtailed or eliminated condom-distribution schemes from their public health programmes in order to increase their chances of attracting Pepfar funding."

Tsele said this message creates the false impression that sex within marriage is not "risky" unless the couple knows that one partner is infected.

"In fact, women are particularly vulnerable to infection, often by husbands whom they incorrectly presume to be faithful. Fidelity alone is not an adequate defence against HIV."

Last week, the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Southern Africa, Cardinal Wilfred Napier, criticised the government for promoting condoms in the fight against HIV/Aids, saying this is "clearly not working".

Napier said only drastic change in sexual behaviour will stop the spread of the disease, and pointed at Uganda as an example. -- Sapa


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