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UGANDA: Back condom use, Museveni urges Catholic leaders

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

KAMPALA, 15 June (PLUSNEWS) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has called on the Catholic Church to drop its opposition to the use of condoms as they are one of the primary ways of fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"If the church is really interested in having its followers live, it should back the use of condoms to save church members from AIDS," Museveni said on Saturday when he closed a conference of Catholic bishops from 10 sub-Sahara African countries.

He said, "This is not to support immorality, but to recognise the weakness of those we live with and help them to live a healthy life."

The 10-day congress debated the impact of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, the world's worst affected region, where an estimated 25.4 million people are living with the disease.

Two bishops attending the meetings had told reporters earlier that the church would not accept condom use or financial aid from atheist NGOs to fight HIV/AIDS.

"Condoms are an artificial birth control method, and the church is against birth control," Bishop Anthony Banzi from Tanzania told a news conference in Mukono, 22 km east of the capital, Kampala.

Museveni's comments came in the wake of criticism by human rights groups, who maintained that his government was abandoning condoms as a means to fight HIV/AIDS in favour of "abstinence only" programmes.

"Uganda is gradually removing condoms from its HIV/AIDS strategy, and the consequences could be fatal," Tony Tate, a researcher for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in March.

Museveni said the church also should instil morals in the region's youth, as this would mitigate the spread of HIV.

In their final message, the bishops commended efforts to control the HIV/AIDS pandemic, specifically the work of governments and other institutions that encourage abstinence and fidelity.

"We are greatly alarmed by the magnitude of HIV/AIDS, its origin, causes, spread and consequences," the assembly added.

Uganda has won accolades for its fight against the pandemic, which has brought HIV prevalence rates down from over 20 percent in the 1980s to about six percent in 2004. The country has used a strategy popularly known as "ABC", or "Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms", to fight the disease.


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