25 March 2003

Kenya: Catholics Firm Over Condoms

Nairobi — The Catholic Church opposed the use of condoms as the new campaign against Aids kicked off yesterday.

The church stressed that chastity was the only way out to prevent the spread of the scourge.

The new campaign against Aids was launched by President Kibaki on Sunday.

Bishop Philip Sulumeti, who is in charge of health and family life at the Kenya Episcopal Conference, said: "To stop the spread of Aids, we ask that chastity and faithfulness be emphasised."

He was addressing a conference for the Health ministry and bishops at Karen, Nairobi. The meeting was opened by Health minister Charity Ngilu.

Mrs Ngilu said her ministry had chosen to work with religious organisations since they had better ways of communicating with the population.

The minister, however, denied having advocated abortion, saying her aim was to promote the right of women "to have a say" in their reproductive health.

"I said it is the right of a woman to decide on the number of children she wishes to have without succumbing to pressure from relatives," she said.

Recently, Mrs Ngilu was reported in the media to have supported and advocated abortion.

The Director of Medical Services, Dr Richard Muga, said although there were several methods to combat Aids, condom use could minimise its spread.

"The condom is not everything, and those who are a danger to others should be counselled to use it," he said.

But Bishop Cornelius Korir was adamant that the Catholic Church would not condone the use of condoms.

He urged those who had attended the one-day meeting to encourage the public to embrace morality.

Bishop Korir, who is the chaplain of the Armed Forces, said: "Teach our children chastity. I teach my soldiers this and they are also doing it wherever they go on peace-keeping missions."

He argued that encouraging condoms would entrench immorality in the minds of the people.

"Why can't we take a bold step and say 'No condom talk' and instead intensify counselling?" he asked.

Bishop Korir said behaviour change could help curb the spread of the disease, adding that only the guilty were afraid and resorted to condoms.

Dr Muga said government intervention in 2000 had reduced Aids infections, adding that before the infection rate stood at 14 per cent but as of last year, it had dropped to 10 per cent.

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