African Bishops Assail Condom Use in AIDS Fight

They Cite Dangers, Saying It Undercuts Self-Control

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, JULY 30, 2001 ( Catholic bishops from southern Africa reaffirmed their opposition to the use of condoms to fight the AIDS pandemic, saying it was immoral and dangerous, Reuters reported.

The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference ended a seven-day meeting by denouncing the use of condoms, which they said led to moral decay and encouraged casual sex.

«The bishops regard the widespread and indiscriminate promotion of condoms as an immoral and misguided weapon in our battle against HIV-AIDS,» the conference said in a statement issued today after talks in the South African capital, Pretoria. «Abstain and be faithful (in marriage) is the human and Christian way of overcoming HIV-AIDS.»

Sub-Saharan Africa has more than 25 million HIV-AIDS sufferers. South Africa alone has about 5 million people HIV-positive — more than any other country.

AIDS activists, who argue that condom use is crucial to any prevention program, attacked the bishops´ position.

«Condom use is the major way we have in blocking new HIV infections,» said Mark Heywood, national secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign, a South African AIDS activist group.

But the bishops´ stance that condoms were no substitute for abstinence and sexual responsibility was shared by Doctors for Life, a grouping of 700 physicians in South Africa.

«There has to be a change in lifestyle behavior,» Albu van Eeden, a member of Doctors for Life, told Reuters. «Just distributing condoms has no effect…. Society as a whole has to change its value system.»

The bishops said: «Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV-AIDS. Apart from the possibility of condoms being faulty or wrongly used they contribute to the breaking down of self-control and mutual trust.»

They urged young people not to be misguided by offers of condoms, to abstain from premarital sex, and to be faithful when married.

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