PNG Bishop objects to condom call

A Papua New Guinea Bishop says a government minister's call for churches to fully support condom use to combat HIV/AIDS is asking them to ignore their beliefs.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Minister Dr Puka Temu, who is assisting the prime minister on HIV/AIDS, told an HIV prevention summit in Port Moresby last week that church groups should put aside their "religious and moral biases" and give 100 per cent support to condom use.

But Bishop Francesco Sarego, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference in PNG, said Minister Temu was asking those in the churches to act against their consciences.

"People only change their beliefs if they are shown to be wrong or inadequate," Sarego said in a statement.

The churches played an important role providing a moral perspective on the epidemic as well as extensive education and family life programs directed towards HIV prevention, he said.

"Along with their families the churches also give most of the care and support received by people living with HIV."

Heterosexual transmission is the main driver of PNG's epidemic with over 12,000 reported HIV cases last year. About two per cent of the population is estimated to be HIV-positive.

Sarego said unfaithful partners spread the infection, causing huge suffering in families. The virus also spread when moral values were ignored among unmarried youth, Sarego said.

"The best defence against HIV is found among the families of our country. Churches are involved in all areas of the country in working with families to address these issues directly.

"Faithfulness in marriage protects families from destruction."

Last year, AusAID-funded condom promotion campaigns in PNG sparked angry calls from some church leaders that such programs only encouraged promiscuity.

PNG Catholics object to condom call (Sydney Morning Herald/Australian Associated Press 14/3/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The Catholic Church of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

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15 Mar 2006