Bishops attack condom use in fighting AIDS


Johannesburg - Catholic bishops from southern Africa yesterday condemned the use of condoms to fight the AIDS pandemic, saying it was immoral and dangerous.

Sub-Saharan Africa is at the epicentre of the global AIDS crisis, with more than 25 million sufferers.

The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference wound up a seven-day meeting in Pretoria by denouncing the use of condoms, which they said destroyed moral fibre and encouraged casual sex. "Abstain and be faithful [in marriage] is the human and Christian way of overcoming HIV-AIDS," the bishops said.

AIDS activists, who argue that condom use is integral to any prevention programme, condemned the bishops' position. "It's a very unfortunate position for them to adopt and make so public. Condom use is the major way we have in blocking new HIV infections," said Mr Mark Heywood of the Treatment Action Campaign South Africa's leading AIDS activist group.

South Africa has more people living with HIV-AIDS than any other country, with one in nine or about five million people HIV-positive.

Mr Nkululeko Nxesi, director of the National Association of People Living with AIDS, said: "The use of condoms provides us with a solution that ensures we scale down the rate of the epidemic. You need a back-up system and condoms provide that."