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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Church rejects plea on condoms
Condoms colours
Health workers hoped the church would relax its ban
Roman Catholic bishops in southern Africa have condemned the use of condoms to fight Aids.

In a statement at the end of their week-long conference in Pretoria, the bishops argued that the battle against HIV/Aids should be fought on moral grounds and said condoms helped spread the disease.

The use of condoms provides us with a solution that ensures we scale down the rate of the epidemic

South Africa Aids charity
But one of them, Bishop Kevin Dowling, disagreed and said condoms should be seen as a way of preventing death, not life.

Aids charities have described the bishops' refusal to relax the condoms ban as unfortunate.

Back-up needed

The director of the National Association of People Living with Aids, Nkululeko Nxesi told Reuters news agency: "The use of condoms provides us with a solution that ensures we scale down the rate of the epidemic.

"You need a back up system and condoms provide that".

The bishops' statement ignored increasing calls for the Catholic church to lift its opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of the virus.

Health workers have asked community leaders, including the clergy, to help promote the use of condoms.

Packs of condoms
An estimated 25 million Africans have Aids
A leading Catholic newspaper in South Africa had called on the church to relax its blanket ban, saying married couples should be allowed to use condoms in cases where one spouse was HIV positive.

There are an estimated 25 million Aids sufferers in sub-Saharan Africa.

The BBC's Linda Duffin
"It is a controversial ruling from the Bishops"
Father Richard Menatsi, South African Bishop
"The safest way of not contracting the disease is abstinence"
Prudence Mbele, Chair of Positive Women's Network
"They speak out of ignorance"
See also:

16 Jul 01 | Africa
SA husband loses HIV case
25 Jun 01 | Americas
UN opens landmark Aids debate
25 Jun 01 | Africa
How to spend Aids fund
25 Jun 01 | Americas
Annan demands Aids action
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