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International AIDS Physicians Group Decries African Bishops' Condemnation of Condom Use

Joint statement by Allen I. Freehling, Chair, Board of Trustees, International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care; José M. Zuniga, President/CEO, International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care

July 31, 2001

Chicago, Illinois -- The International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC), which represents 10,800 HIV/AIDS-treating physicians in 83 countries, decries the decision of southern African Catholic bishops earlier this week to condemn as "immoral" the use of condoms in the global battle against HIV/AIDS. Numerous theological bodies, including the World Council of Churches (WCC), have argued that there is an obligation to care for human beings living with HIV disease. And, even if there is no biblical equivalent to the concept of HIV prevention, it seems clear that preventing suffering is consonant with allowing human beings to live in conditions reflecting the original harmony of creation. A 1994 World Council of Churches document entitled Facing AIDS stated that "effective methods of prevention include sexual abstinence, mutual fidelity, condom use, and safe practices in relation to blood and needles" -- a fact that has not escaped clerics who work on the front lines of HIV/AIDS care on the African continent.

As recently as 1999, Pope John Paul II, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, argued, "every human person, created in the image and likeness of God and called to share in his divine life, has the right to be able to sit at the table of common feast and enjoy the benefits of progress, science, technology, and medicine." A benefit of the progress made in our understanding of HIV disease is unequivocal proof that HIV transmission can be curbed and, thus, needless suffering and hastened death avoided. IAPAC urges the southern African bishops, who condemned as "misguided" an effective weapon against HIV/AIDS, and religious leaders worldwide to examine the relationship between, and consequences of, conflicts between dogma and sound science and to, subsequently, explore what faith communities may do to help achieve human health for all our brothers and sisters.

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