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African bishops reject condom use in AIDS fight

Catholic bishops from southern Africa on Monday condemned the use of condoms to fight the AIDS pandemic gripping the continent.

The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference wrapped up a seven-day meeting by denouncing the use of condoms, which they said destroyed moral fibre and encouraged casual sex.

"The Bishops regard the widespread and indiscriminate promotion of condoms as an immoral and misguided weapon in our battle against HIV-AIDS," the conference said in a statement issued after talks in the South African capital Pretoria. advertisement

"Abstain and be faithful (in marriage) is the human and Christian way of overcoming HIV-AIDS," the bishops said.

Sub-Saharan Africa is at the epicenter of the global AIDS crisis, with more than 25 million sufferers. South Africa has more people living with HIV-AIDS than any other country, with one in nine or about five million people HIV-positive.

Mark Heywood, national secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), South Africa's leading AIDS activist group said: "Condom use is the major way we have in blocking new HIV infections."

But the bishops' stance that condoms were no substitute for abstinence and sexual responsibility was shared by Doctors for Life, a grouping of some 700 doctors in South Africa.

"There has to be a change in lifestyle behaviour. Just distributing condoms has no effect... Society as a whole has to change its value system," said Albu van Eeden, a member of Doctors for Life.

Southern Africa Catholic Bishops' Conference