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South African Church claims lead in fight against AIDS

Responding to a hostile ad campaign targeting the Church's condom-free stance on AIDS prevention, the Catholic Bishops' AIDS office has claimed it is the largest non-government provider of AIDS prevention and care programs in Southern Africa.

Advertisements currently appearing in Cape Town and Johannesburg question if the Catholic Bishops care about AIDS sufferers and ask whether they are doing anything to stop the spread of AIDS in Southern Africa.

The Office claims that between June 2000 and November 2001, it provided a total of $A2.47 million to fund 116 Aids projects. These projects cover all aspects of the Aids pandemic and reach into the remotest and most marginalised communities in Southern Africa. It said that even the National Department of Health acknowledges that Catholic service providers, working through the national network of Catholic parishes, are able to get closer to the grass roots than the government's own Aids prevention and caring network.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference spokesperson, Bishop Reginald Cawcutt of Cape Town said: "The Church disapproves of trying to combat the spread of Aids by the wholesale doling out of condoms to teenagers. This is as likely to promote promiscuity as anything else. It shows seriously muddled thinking. The Church strongly supports and promotes - as it has for 2000 years - value based education and prevention programs. They are the only things that ultimately work."

Southern African Bishops Conference