By Genevieve Pollock
KAMPALA, Uganda, MARCH 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The director of an African AIDS care center is supporting Benedict XVI’s words about the ineffectiveness of condoms in the struggle against the spread of the disease.
Rose Busingye, who directs Meeting Point Kampala, a center in Kampala for those suffering from AIDS, and cares for about 4,000 people a day, responded to the Pope’s words and the public criticism he received.
In an interview published online March 20 by Il Sussidario, Busingye said that “those who contribute to the polemics over the Pope’s statements must in reality understand that the true problem in the spread of AIDS in Africa is not condoms; talking about this would be to stop at the consequences and never go to the origin of the problem.”
“At the root of the spread of HIV,” she explained, “there is a behavior, there is a way of being.” She added, “And then let’s not forget that the great emergency is to take care of the people who have already contracted the disease and for whom condoms are useless.”
Offering an example of the occasional lack of comprehension of the situation in Africa, Busingye spoke about a group of journalists who had come to report on the activities of Meeting Point. Seeing the condition of the HIV-positive women, they were moved. They decided to make themselves useful and do something for the women: they gave them a small box of condoms.
Seeing this, the director reported, one of the women at the center, Jovine, looked at them and said: “My husband is dying and I have six children who will soon be orphans. What use are these boxes you are giving me?”
“What that woman and many other women like her need,” Busingye affirmed, “is to have someone who looks at them and says: ‘Woman, don’t cry!'”
“It is absurd,” she added, “to try to respond to her need with a box of condoms, and the absurdity is in not seeing that man is love, and affectivity.”
Speaking about persons who could spread the disease by having relations with others, Busingye explained: “AIDS is a problem like every other problem in life that cannot be reduced to one cause. We need to begin from the fact that there needs to be education, even in living and sexuality.”
She said that in the current situation in Africa the use of condoms “can seem a bit ridiculous” since before using them one must first wash their hands, keep all dust away and store them at a certain temperature — all things which Busingye said are rather difficult for the women she cares for to do.
Thus, she asserted, many who talk about using condoms in Africa do so without the slightest knowledge of the problem and the conditions of the continent.
Because of this, she observed, the Pope’s statements caused little controversy in Africa itself.
“The Pope,” Busingye emphasized, “is doing nothing else but defending and supporting precisely that which will be useful for helping these people: affirming the meaning of life and the dignity of the human being.”
She continued: “Those who attack him have interests to defend, but the Pope has no such interests: he is concerned about us, and he is concerned about Africa.
“He is not the one, who is bringing mines to blow up our children, our children who become soldiers, who become amputees, without ears, without mouths, unable to swallow saliva: and what should we give them, condoms?
“When a few years ago there was genocide in Rwanda, everyone stood by and watched. Nearby there is a tiny town, which could have been protected, and no one did anything.
“My relatives were there, and they all died in an inhumane way. No one cared, and now they are coming here with condoms.”
Pointing out that malaria kills more people than AIDS, Busingye asked: “Why don’t they bring us aspirin and anti-malaria medicine?”
She stated that there is a method that works and that caused a reduction in the spread of AIDS in Uganda from 18% of the population to 3% and “it is to do it in a way that makes the people feel cared for.” She concluded, “We see it here at Meeting Point: when the people come here, they don’t want to leave.”
A new Web site offers videos that document the fight against AIDS from a Catholic perspective. Metanoia Media, producer of the award-winning video “Sowing in Tears” and its follow-up, “The Change Is On,” released the site last Friday to give a different perspective on the Pope’s words about condoms. “The Change Is On” features unique footage and testimonies of abstinence activists and Catholic AIDS workers in South Africa and Uganda. It documents their successes and the challenging issues they face in the fight against the pandemic.
Norman Servais, head of the South African production company, told ZENIT: “My country, as you know, is the AIDS capital of the world, so speak to us about condoms if you like and we’ll tell you that they are not the answer!”
Bishop Hugh Slattery of Tzaneen, South Africa, commissioned the videos as part of a program to respond to HIV/AIDS in an authentically Catholic way.
In an interview with ZENIT, Bishop Slattery said that the aim of the second video, completed last year, is to show that “abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage will quickly stop the spread of AIDS.”
A third production entitled “Called to Care”, will deal with “caring for the sick, the dying, and the AIDS orphans,” and a fourth video, due for release later this year, will show “marriage and family as the real solution to the AIDS pandemic.”
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On the Net:
Video Web site: http://www.catholicportal.co.za/AIDS/The_Change_Is_On.htm
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Bishop Slattery’s interview: http://www.zenit.org/article-21446?l=english