Kenyan churches have been told to educate their congregations about the importance of protected sex in the fight against AIDS. At a recent week-long meeting in Kenyan capital of Nairobi involving officials from Southern and Eastern Africa, the churches were told to even go as far as preaching the use of condoms in preventing the spread of the deadly scourge.
"We cannot stand in public and tell people living with Aids not to use condoms,” stated Dr. Kennedy Ondede, the secretary of the local chapter of CUAHA (Churches United Against HIV and AIDS).
“Take the example of discordant couples who also have to enjoy their conjugal rights. It is only wise to encourage them to use condoms to avoid re-infection or infecting the partner," Ondede said as he spoke at the end of the week-long meeting.
According to the Nairobi-based Standard News, CUAHA, a regional faith-based organization, expressed the desire to start support groups and provide anti-retroviral drugs for people living with the disease.
The group also criticized preachers who “mislead their infected flock not to use condoms under the illusion that God would heal them” and deplored the resurgence of rape and female genital mutilation. Members of CUAHA include the Lutheran, Pentecostal, Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches.
While the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa has grown quite serious over the past several years, there have been contrasting opinions on the part of churches and faith-based organizations in various countries on how to tackle the problem. While some nations, such as Kenya have stressed the importance of condom use in containing the pandemic, other nations such as Gambia have expressed opposition to distribution of contraceptives to the country’s youth.
“The church does not teach that condoms should be used for the prevention of HIV/AIDS or for contraceptive purposes,” said Father Edward Gomez, a well-known Catholic priest who regularly presents discussion programs on local television.
During a Sept. 25 – Oct. 1 meeting of Presbyterian Church leaders from over ten African countries, Bishop Mvume Dandala, the General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), urged churches to have HIV/AIDS education as a priority stating that there was an urgent need to give priority to issues affecting the youth who, if well mentored, are the immediate hope for an HIV/AIDS-free generation.
Mohamad Yassine, coordinator of the World Conference of Religion for Peace (WCRP) in Mozambique, stated that although the reality is that young people are having sex before they married, "we should not use the condom as a propaganda item; we should not liberalize condoms; we should not distribute them among young people and say use them and you are safe. We rather want behavior change.”
Similarly, John Sylva, the director of the Catholic Development Office, proposed an alternative interpretation of the ABC AIDS control slogan, which stands for "Abstain, Be careful, Condomize."
He recommended that 'C' should simply stand for "Change Behavior."