Harare- Zimbabwe (PANA) -- Condom debate is heating up in Zimbabwe as it battles the spread of AIDS, which health officials say could result in zero-growth in the country's population next year.
Zimbabwe, which recorded population growth of some 3.
7 percent in the 1990s, is among the countries worst hit by AIDS in the world, with an estimated 5,000 people said to be succumbing to disease every week.
Yet, the citizens are deeply divided on how to slow the spread of the pandemic, and save the nation's shrinking 12.
5 million population.
The UN estimates that more than a quarter of Zimbabwe's adult population is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, a considerable increase from the early and mid-1990s.
After preaching total abstinence from sex and faithfulness in sexual relationships, the government has changed tact, by adding other prevention methods such as the use of condoms in its anti-AIDS crusade.
This has divided the nation, with Christians criticising the popularisation of condom use as ineffective and licence to promiscuity.
Christians, especially the Roman Catholics insist on abstinence and faithfulness by couples.
"(Condoms) failure rate in preventing HIV infection is likely to be even higher.
Condoms are no substitute for the moral demand that people abstain before marriage and be faithful in marriage," the Catholic Church said in its contribution to the national debate.
The Church says it can only tolerate the use of condoms in cases where one spouse is infected, but even then, it warns the unaffected partner that condoms do not offer total protection against HIV infection.
"A special case which must be considered separately is that of a married woman who knows her husband is promiscuous and may be HIV positive.
Some of such wives have, in fact, decided to stop intercourse with their infected husbands altogether, even at the risk of their marriage breaking down," the Church explained.
But the government and AIDS activists say the Church's position is frustrating efforts in curbing the spread of the disease by casting doubts on condom safety.
While women generally approve of their spouses carrying and using condoms in extra-marital relationships, many husbands say they would immediately send their wives packing if they found condoms on them.
Thoko Ngwenya, Director of a women's lobby group said, "if a woman discovers that her spouse is promiscuous, she should not be naive not to let him use condoms.
If they have decided to take their spouses as unfaithful as they are, then they must accept that they use condoms," she added.
She advises that "condom must be the catchword for those in polygamous relationships.