Churches Hamper Condom Campaign in Madagascar
October 5, 2004
The use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is being promoted in Madagascar by the government and international groups, but opposition from church leaders is stymieing their efforts.
"I am firmly opposed to the use of the condom as a means of fighting AIDS, because it promotes promiscuity," said Armand Razafimahefa, former head of the country's Protestant Church. "I agree with the cardinal on this," he added, referring to Cardinal Gaetan Armand Razafindratandra, the Madagascar bishop who has frequently spoken against condom use. "Why not spend this money to find a vaccine for AIDS, instead of promoting condoms? There's lots of money involved," said Razafimahefa.
A National Institute of Statistics survey conducted between November and March revealed only 2 percent and 4 percent of sexually active women and men, respectively, used a condom during their last sexual interaction. The 7,000 people surveyed were respondents who knew about the existence of HIV/AIDS.
In 2003, the nongovernmental Population Services International distributed 11 million condoms to Madagascar at a subsidized 500 francs (five US cents) per condom, said Lalah Rambeloson, PSI's Madagascar operations director. "But some outlets refuse [to accept the condoms] or throw them away because of religion," he added.
The National Committee for the Fight Against AIDS recently dubbed the condom "Fimailo," which means "it's good but be careful" in the local language. "We want to counter the demonization attempts and make it something people use a lot," said the committee's executive secretary, Fenosoa Ratsimanetrimanana. The campaign also enlisted top-selling pop musicians to spread the word.
"Science is not the province of the church or cardinal's, just as theology is not my province," UNAIDS head Peter Piot said in a March visit to the nation.
Agence France Presse
10.01.04; Patrick Mercier
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.