Religious Leaders 'Must Not Mislead Over Condom Use'

THE South African Council of Churches has raised concern about the use of religious beliefs to distort and cloud the scientific evidence on the use of condoms.

This comes in the wake of recent comments by some religious leaders questioning the effectiveness of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

"While it is not morally prudent to preach the use of condoms as if they are the saviour from the pandemic, we should not fall victim to the conservative dogma that condoms are inferior," council general secretary Molefe Tsele said yesterday.

He said science had shown that, when used correctly, condoms could prevent the transmission of diseases.

Tsele's comments come two days after religious leaders met Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang at a religious leaders' forum in Johannesburg. Religious leaders criticised government's promotion of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infections, and advocated faithfulness and abstinence instead.

Tsele said although it was entirely appropriate for religious leaders to "express their moral and strategic concerns" as part of the national debate on HIV/AIDS, they "should not pretend that their ethical misgivings are validated by scientific evidence".

During the 2001 national conference, the council of churches adopted a resolution that Tsele said called on churches to "encourage the use of measures necessary to prevent infection". This in addition to promoting abstinence and faithfulness in marriage.

He said all of the council's denominations had reaffirmed that resolution.

"Condoms remain an essential pillar of the ABC (abstain, be faithful, condomise) approach. This was the formula that proved successful in Uganda," said Tsele.