U.K. International Development Secretary Clare Short Criticizes Vatican Over AIDS Fight
Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, UK -- Experts say 25 million Africans could have HIV. UK International Development Secretary Clare Short has accused the Roman Catholic Church of being a burden on international efforts to fight AIDS. Speaking from the 13th International AIDS Conference in South Africa, she said the Church was wrong in not helping to distribute condoms to people in danger of contracting the disease. She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The Catholic Church opposes contraception but most Catholics in the world use it. The Catholic Church is stuck and wrong on these questions but lots of Catholics ignore the Church's teaching, including good priests and nuns who are in favor of condoms being made available. That is just another burden in dealing with this thing better."
The Catholic Church says her comments are insulting and Downing Street has distanced itself by pointing out her remarks were personal views.
Condoms Not Solution?
Tom Horwood, spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said there were thousands of Catholic organizations around the world working hard to fight the spread of AIDS. He said: "To label their efforts a burden is unworthy and unfair. Condoms are not the solution. The long term fight is only going to be won if people change their behavior and that is the focus the Catholic Church brings to this."
Ms. Short, who was brought up a Catholic, also criticized the South African Government for being slow to tackle the disease with real public education programmes, prevention, availability of condoms and special care for people who are infected.
The minister denied reports that the British Government's own contribution to anti-AIDS programmes in Africa had been cut. She said total spending was growing considerably although there were some programmes no longer getting 100% funding.
Shadow International Development Secretary Gary Streeter attacked Ms. Short's comments as a shallow attempt to place blame on the Catholic Church which were unhelpful and insulting. He said: "Miss Short should, for once, think before she opens her mouth, and start concentrating on achieving results in the fight against AIDS in Africa. The answer doesn't just lie in the provisions of condoms. Education is vital, and the Government should be doing more to help."
Editorial Note: Umm? Separate church and state!
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