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CONDOMS-TURKSON Oct-5-2009 (450 words) With photo. xxxi

Condoms are not reliable in fight against HIV, says African cardinal

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Condoms are not always effective in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, said Cardinal Peter Turkson of Cape Coast, Ghana.

Abstinence, fidelity in marriage and universal access to antiretroviral drugs are the strategies the church continues to promote in the fight against AIDS, he said.

The cardinal, who will turn 61 Oct. 11, made the comments during a Vatican press conference Oct. 5, presenting some of the issues to be discussed during the second special Synod of Bishops for Africa.

Cardinal Turkson was asked about the AIDS epidemic in Africa and what position the synod will take, specifically concerning the use of condoms in HIV prevention.

He said when "people propose the use of condoms it becomes effective only in families where they are going to be faithful."

However, condoms give "people a false sense of security, which rather facilitates the spread of HIV/AIDS," he said.

Condoms cannot be relied upon to provide 100-percent protection against HIV transmission because "there are condoms which arrive in Ghana, which in the heat and whatever burst during sex," he said.

Because there is always a chance condoms might break during sexual intimacy, he is reluctant to recommend condom use even to married couples in which one partner is affected with HIV, he said.

The priorities for African bishops at the synod will remain "abstinence and loyalty and fidelity" within marriage, he said.

During pastoral counseling, he said he presents the issues and discusses them with the person seeking advice, which "allows the person to decide, to (make) his own decision."

He said he does not "undervalue the possibility that somebody who has AIDS recognizes his own Christian commitment (and) would simply just decide to refrain from sex," even if he or she were in a faithful marriage, in order to prevent the spread of HIV.

"Some would in such a situation have advised the use of condoms by a partner who has HIV so that it doesn't spread, but again, in our part of the world, even the use of condoms is sometimes risky," he said.

"If we have proper, top quality condoms, then one can probably with certainty speak about" the effectiveness of an infected partner using condoms, "but that is also not the case" in Ghana, he said.

Cardinal Turkson said he would rather see the resources spent on manufacturing and providing prophylactics to Africa be earmarked for subsidizing antiretroviral drugs for the people there.

"Let us use those resources to support the production of antiretroviral drugs so (they) would be more available to people," he said. "That's probably the big favor that we can do for the people suffering from HIV/AIDS."

END


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