Thursday, February 10, 2005

Now here is a bizzare and rather absurd situation. One of the most powerful Christian religious leaders in South Africa rails against Bush, for making American aid contingent on abstinence only programs, and accuses Bush of fueling a dangerous conservative backlash against condoms, tools to promote the sanctity of human life.
I received the following in the Treatment Action Campaign Newsletter. They do earthshaking work. check them out.

Condoms an Essential Component of Anti-AIDS Strategy, SACC Warns

The General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, the Rev. Dr. Molefe Tsele, expressed shock and dismay at continuing assertions that condoms "don't work" as a means of preventing the spread of HIV.

"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," Dr. Tsele said.

He noted that, despite the scientific evidence, there were continuing disagreements among the Council's 26 member denominations about the moral implications of condoms. The Methodist and Anglican Churches, for example, do not rule out condom use. A resolution adopted by the Council's National Conference in 2001 called on churches to "encourage the use of measures necessary to prevent infection" in addition to promoting sexual abstinence and faithfulness in marriage.

The General Secretary also attacked as "theologically wrong" the "demonisation" of condoms and the attempt to portray condom use as a "morally inferior" option for preventing HIV infection. "The use of condoms is consistent with a theological tradition that emphasises the sanctity and dignity of human life."

Dr. Tsele accused the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) of fueling the resurgent moral conservatism behind the emerging war on condoms. PEPFAR, President Bush's US$15 billion anti-AIDS plan, 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, it urges that promotion of condoms be limited to groups that engage in "risky behaviour" - mainly sex workers and couples where one partner is HIV positive and the other is not. 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.

"This message creates the false impression that sex within marriage is not 'risky' unless the couple know that one partner is infected," Dr Tsele warned." 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."

The General Secretary also criticised US officials responsible for AIDS initiatives for promoting an interpretation of Uganda's experience that attributes the country's apparent success in decreasing HIV prevalence rates largely to abstinence and fidelity whilst downplaying the role of condoms.

However, condom distribution was a key aspect of the multi-faceted programme pioneered by the Ugandan government. 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.

The General Secretary praised the South African government for its continuing commitment to condom distribution. "Abstinence and faithfulness are powerful and vital messages, especially for religious bodies to be communicating. But condoms clearly remain an essential component of any public initiative to halt HIV transmission," Dr. Tsele
said. "You can be faithful and still wear a condom."


At 9:59 PM, Blogger deitybox said...

Ari--so glad to see you're still posting from your new world. How are you?? What are you seeing, feeling, touching, tasting, dreaming about? I'm so sorry we didn't get a chance to speak before you left, but I'd like to hear everything!



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