See also:
» 09.06.2008 - Tanzania controls HIV/AIDS
» 28.03.2007 - AIDS killed 193 Tanzanian teachers
» 08.12.2006 - African Muslim clerics divided on condom use
» 11.10.2006 - Tanzania secures US$ 59 million to battle maternal mortality
» 15.09.2006 - HIV linked to injected drugs in Zanzibar - new study
» 18.07.2006 - Ban on early marriage puts police within "firing range" of HIV
» 31.05.2006 - Significant progress in East Africa as HIV prevalence declines - UNAIDS
» 28.03.2006 - Maternal deaths on the rise

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Tanzanian church still opposes condoms, sex education

afrol News / PlusNews, 1 June - Tanzania's Anglican Church is still vehemently opposed to condom use, despite its ambitious HIV/AIDS prevention campaign, and has called for a total ban on condom advertising to protect children from early exposure to sex.

Reverend James Dominic of the Tanga Diocese said the church would continue resisting condom use because it promoted underage sex and immorality. "The advertisements [of condoms] encourage young girls and boys to engage in sex because they are told to use condoms."

The Anglican Church in Tanzania has been at the forefront of efforts to curb the spread of HIV. In an effort to lead by example, it launched an HIV/AIDS control project in 2004 that compels the church leadership to take an HIV test before taking on religious responsibilities. In the Tanga Diocese 45 priests were tested recently, three of whom were found positive.

Revd Dominic said HIV-positive members of the clergy would receive counselling and be encouraged to disclose their status publicly, to inspire church members to go for counselling and testing. However, the church's continued resistance to condom use is likely to set back a government plan to educate children in primary schools about HIV/AIDS.

The Anglican Church is the latest religious denomination in Tanzania to oppose condoms, after a protracted war of words broke out between the Ministry of Education on the one hand, and Catholic and Muslim religious groups on the other, over the introduction of sex education into the primary school curriculum in 2006.

The Education Ministry has also been concerned about a sharp rise in underage pregnancies and the soaring primary school dropout rate, and planned to introduce family life education in the primary school curriculum to save young girls from early pregnancy and potential HIV/AIDS infection.

This proposal was met with strong opposition from religious leaders, who criticised the government for attempting to promote immorality, saying the curriculum content was a disguised form of "condom education". The new curriculum features reproductive health, with condom use and abstinence taking pole position in the fight against early pregnancy and marriage, HIV/AIDS prevention and female genital mutilation.

Opposition by conservatives, who argued that the new curriculum would encourage underage sex, has forced minister of education Margereth Sitta to withdraw the planned curriculum, pending further consultations with religious leaders, health specialists and traditional leaders.

The decision to introduce sex education in primary schools was prompted by a 2005 Ministry of Education study, which showed that nearly 30 percent of primary school pupils had already experienced sex, and a significant proportion of girls who dropped out of school because of pregnancy were HIV positive.

Despite this data, Revd Dominic said the church would continue to advocate abstinence and fidelity. "Once the government stops the importation and distribution of condoms, people will stop sex with multiple partners and slow down the spread of the pandemic, especially among the youth."

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