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KENYA: Churches resist blanket condom distribution in AIDS war

By Fredrick Nzwili
12/3/2006
[Ecumenical News International]  Church leaders in Kenya demanded an end to massive indiscriminate distribution of condoms during global celebration to mark the World AIDS Day.

"What we are opposing is indiscriminate distribution in public places," said Kenya's Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi. "I think this should not be done."

Leaders like Nzimbi said they were arguing that such distribution of contraceptives would encourage promiscuity and thereby further increase HIV/AIDS infections in Kenya. The country has seen its HIV infection prevalence rate drop from 14 percent in 2000 to 5.9 percent in 2006. Health workers attribute this to a combination of measures including increased awareness about the pandemic and the use of condoms.

Nzimbi said some organizations believed condom distribution could save lives, but he said giving them away without thought contradicts Christian principles of self control.

"We are thinking people, we are not animals that you [government and NGOs] spread these [condoms] to us by any means," Nzimbi said. Still, he maintained that the Church allowed condom use in a family context where one of the spouses may be infected.

Opposition to condom distribution was also expressed by Nairobi Roman Catholic Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana' a Nzeki on November 28. "When condoms are given freely, the chances of promiscuity increase, and the majority of our people can end up engaging in causal sex," he told journalists. He had also called for the banning of advertisements on condoms.

Some churches in the country have countered HIV/AIDS through what is known as the ABC - Abstinence, Being faithful and Counseling. But the government has been seen supporting any method that could help roll back the pandemic. In a national HIV/AIDS strategic plan till the year 2010 launched by the Kenyan government on World AIDS Day, money for condoms takes the biggest financial allocation.

Meanwhile, a local FM radio station reported on December 1 that Dr. Alloys Orago, director of Kenya's National Aids Control Council, said the group had collected 1 million signatures. These will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI. The petition urges the Pope to allow Catholics to use condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

"The battle is still on," Orago said. "We still need to talk to our youth and do a lot of counseling. We need people who are not only talking, but walking the way, being an example."