AIDS Fight Puts Brazil's Bishops and Health Officials at Odds
January 13, 2004
Catholic bishops in Brazil, the world's largest Roman Catholic country, have clashed with the Health Ministry over its distribution of more than 300 million free condoms last year. Antagonism has increased since the Health Ministry announced plans to expand condom giveaways in high schools next month. Ministry figures show the fastest-growing rates of HIV/AIDS infection are among teens ages 16-19. Brazilian girls are almost twice as likely to get infected, reflecting their tendency to have older sexual partners.
The giveaway programs distributed 317,000 condoms to teens last year, along with sex education, in four interior cities and Sao Paulo. Carla Silviera in the ministry's AIDS division said the campaign went well enough to justify going national.
But the National Conference of Bishops has warned that free condoms "could be seen by students as incentive to exercise sexuality, without limits or criteria."
In November, the ministry and bishops clashed over a government-funded video on condoms titled, "Sin Is Not Using One." Church officials sued successfully to halt the video's distribution.
The Health Ministry criticized church authorities for disputing condoms' effectiveness in slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Ministry officials warned that the church "could be committing one more crime against humanity," referring to a TV newsmagazine program in November that compared church opposition to condom campaigns to the Vatican's silence over Nazi Germany's extermination of the Jews.
"When they say it is a sin because it makes it impossible to bring new life," said Regina Soares, executive coordinator for Catholics for the Right to Choose in Sao Paulo, "we say that today not using a condom is a sin because it is irresponsible" and threatens life.
Brazil has South America's highest HIV/AIDS rates -- close to 238,000 documented cases since 1980 -- but actual infection rates could be much higher.
01.09.04; Kevin G. Hall
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.