Zimbabwe health aide blames Catholics, Adventists for HIV persistence

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)Nineteen-year-old Shyreen Mvula from Malawi was born HIV positive. On November 6, 2013 she told some 3,000 people at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea that churches need to get involved in sex education for young people if they are to help communities deal with the scourge of HIV and AIDS effectively.

The health adviser Zimbabwe's president and its cabinet has blamed some churches for the persistence of HIV related stigma and the country's failure to effectively deal with the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

Dr. Timothy Stamps said that by condemning the use of condoms the churches unwittingly encouraged the spread of the HIV virus among their followers.

Stamps said this launching the HIV community monitoring initiative, a brain child of the Zimbabwe HIV and AIDS Activist Union Community Trust in Murewa, 75 kilometers (45 miles) north east of the capital Harare last week.

"During my tenure of office we had serious problems with the established churches especially the Catholics and the Seventh-day Adventists.

"They thought HIV/AIDS was a moral issue whether by intention or by accident. They blamed the victim for what they called bad behaviour," said the former health minister, NewZimbabwe.com reported.

Around 15 percent of Zimbabwe's population were living with the HIV virus in 2012 according to UNAIDS.

"The Catholic Church would not allow any condom to be on display in the hospital or any surrounding areas, but that was the only method we had at that time of preventing the spreading of the pandemic," Stamps said.

Stamps noted, "The SDA (Seventh-day Adventists) used to publish a series of adverts saying that the cause of AIDS was immoral behaviour. But the fact is quite very different, a lot of men, I would say most of Zimbabwean men, are sexually active."

"They do things which are both pleasurable and condemned by the church so that was the origin of stigmatization. Sadly some doctors also adopted that line of thinking".

Stamps said had it not been because of hypocrites, Zimbabwe would not have recorded high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS.

At one point the country's HIV prevalence reached 27 per cent and went down drastically to 15 per cent where it currently stands.

The skyrocketing of HIV prevalence in earlier years also resulted in the death of over half a million people over about 15 years NewZimbabwe.com reported.

According to Zimbabwe's National AIDS Council, an estimated 60 percent of Zimbabwean adults living with HIV at the end of 2011 were female.

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