Churches in Zambia to Promote Condom Use to Fight AIDS

The leader one of Zambia's main Christian church groups is calling for the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS in the southern African nations, where nearly one in five are infected with the deadly disease.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Rev. Japhet Ndhlovu, the general secretary of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), said that his group would promote the ABC policy towards AIDS, which promotes "Abstinence, Being faithful and Condom use" to fight the pandemic.

"We believe that sex belongs to the covenant of marriage and the Church will always discourage sex outside marriage and for the young people we always tell them to wait for the right time. There are married couples that have one positive, we can't tell these people not to use condoms and risk their lives," he said, according to the Post newspaper in Zambia.

Within Christian churches, condom use to prevent AIDS has been a controversial topic. On June 10, at a meeting with bishops from South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho, Roman Catholic leader Pope Benedict XVI said that abstinence was the only "fail-safe" way to prevent the spread of HIV.

Although he did not speak directly about the condom debate, the Catholic Church has been against condom use because it is opposed to contraceptives for birth control.

On June 11, at a conference of Catholic bishops in the eastern African nation of Uganda, the President of that nation, Yoweri Museveni called on the Catholic church to drop its opposition to condom use, according to IRIN news.

In Uganda, the ABC policy has been credited with success in reducing the number of AIDS infections in the country.

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

Lutheran Bishop Rosemarie Khon of Norway, who also attended the press conference in Zambia said it was vital to encourage condom use to stop the spread of the disease within the context of married couples where one partner was infected.

"If we don't encourage this we will be blamed for not saving lives. Husbands who refuse to use condoms have infected women. Women have the right to stand up for their own good health and men must take the responsibility to use condoms in order to prevent further spread of the disease," said Khon.