Use Of Condoms - Protestant Denominations Say Yes, But ...

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Should the Church accept to promote condoms? If it did, then in what case should the faithful be advised to use the sheaths? These are some of the questions which a section of church leaders have been trying to answer.
Sixty members of the All Africa Conference of Churches have just ended a meeting in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in their endeavour to break the silence of churches, notably Protestant churches, over AIDS and take initiative to help those affected by the pandemic.
As church leaders, they were aware that there would be no easy answer to the question.
But while acknowledging the importance of condoms, they refused to put it at the centre of their message to the faithful.
"It is important to educate the youths about responsible use of condoms.
However, morals should be at the heart of that education", said a Cameroonian priest.
According to the church leaders, condoms are a palliative and not a solution to the real problem.
According to Marie, a nurse working with a humanitarian organisation in Djibouti, everyone has responsibility for their choice.
"Condoms are the subject of discussion among couples.
But men are more involved and there lies the interest", she said.
Participants to the Dakar meeting listed the situations in which they could advise the use of condoms without falling into sin: for spouses with different HIV status, for HIV positive couples to avoid over-contamination, for birth control .
but in the strict bonds of matrimony.
Following exhaustive discussions, it was decided to allow women to use condoms to protect themselves if their husbands were fickle.
The position of Protestant denominations could be summarised as saying: "no to unregulated promotion, yes to responsible promotion (of condoms)".
According to the church leaders, faithfulness and abstinence from sex before marriage are the only effective means of controling AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.
However, in Senegal, a very religious country, the promotion of condoms was instrumental in the prevention of the pandemic.
Condoms are readily available across the country and the level of use is satisfactory, especially among risk groups such as prostitutes, 99 percent of whom have easy access to condoms, as against 85 percent of the general population.
Between 1988 and 1997, the distribution and sale of condoms rose from 800,000 to 7,010,000 units.
According to a survey on the issue, 62 percent of the population said they have used a condom during an intercourse with a risk partner, while 94 percent of prostitutes said they used condoms.
In Dakar, 67 percent of men and 45 percent of women said they used condoms during their last intercourse with a risk partner.
In the general population, the rate was 62 percent, and 94 percent among prostitutes.
Among the interviewees, the use of condoms in sexual intercourse with risk partners is very high among widows, widowers and divorced persons, and it increases with age and level of education.

03 may 2001 14:39:00

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