Johannesburg, South Africa - A churchman in Cape Town has angered Christians in his community by preaching that Jesus Christ was HIV-positive, South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper reported Friday.
Reverend Xola Skosana of the charismatic Way of Life church said he had decided to tackle the issue of HIV/AIDS head-on to end the stigma surrounding the disease.
In a sermon entitled "Jesus was HIV positive" he told his congregation in Khayelitsha township that God was present in everyone, sick and healthy.
"In many parts of the Bible God put himself in the position of the sick, the marginalized," the 43-year-old pastor said.
"When we attend to those who are sick, we are attending to him. When we ignore people who are sick, we are ignoring him," he argued.
His remarks have sparked an outcry among many Christians in the township, who accuse him of portraying Jesus as sexually promiscuous by drawing a link between the son of God and HIV/AIDS.
The virus is mainly transmitted through sex, but can also be spread through needle-sharing, contamined blood, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Sosana told the paper he was mystified by the controversy.
"It baffles me why in the church this is the most untalked-about subject," he said.
The Catholic Church has been particularly reticent on the pandemic, which kills nearly 1,000 people daily in South Africa, the country with the biggest caseload.
Skosana, who lost two sisters to AIDS, has encouraged his congregation to know their HIV status by taking a test in front of them.
Hundred other young men followed suit, the report said.
South Africa's National Aids Council has welcomed his stance.
"There are many churches that have done a lot to combat HIV," SANAC's Mark Heywood said. "The problem is that the church as a whole has not been vocal enough."