Crusading for change

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 21 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:926
  1. Sophie Arie
  1. Rome

    As 115 cardinals began voting for a new pope on Monday, some Catholic organisations and priests working in AIDS ravaged areas called for the church to change its stance on condoms. Sophie Arie reports

    For Luyanda Ngonyama, like the rest of his generation of South Africans, AIDS is part of every-day life. But condoms are not. One in five South Africans is living with HIV or AIDS, more people than in any other country.

    For years, working for the South African Catholic Bishops Council AIDS programme, Mr Ngonyama,aged 32, saw fellow Catholics grapple with the moral dilemma over whether to use all available methods of protection. “What about my religion?” they would ask. “If I have sex [outside marriage]and use a condom, I'll be committing a double sin.”

    Mr Ngonyama became so uncomfortable with the Catholic church's official line on condoms—that they “promote immoral behaviour” and don't help protect from AIDS—that he gave up his job as HIV coordinator in the council programme. He now works for Treatment Action Campaign, the country's most influential AIDS activist group and a prominent pro-condom voice.

    “I don't ever push Catholics to use condoms. But they must be free to choose. Any interventionon AIDS that doesn't include condoms is meaning-less,” Mr Ngonyama says. Mr Ngonyama is just one of count-less …

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