by Steven Ertelt
June 10, 2005
The Vatican (LifeNews.com) — In a meeting with African Catholic bishops on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged them to continue using abstinence education as the primary tool to combat the AIDS epidemic that is ravaging the continent. He reiterated Catholic teaching in favor of abstinence and said it was the only "fail safe" methods of preventing AIDS.
Benedict met with bishops from South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho, according to an Associated Press report.
"It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraceptive mentality, all of which contribute to a breakdown in sexual morality," Benedict said.
The pontiff said he shared their concern for the devastation the virus is causing in Africa and said he has prayed for "all those whose lives have been shattered by this cruel epidemic."
More than 60 percent of the 40 million people worldwide infected with the AIDS virus live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa has the highest number of HIV-infected people in the world.
"I urge you to continue your efforts to fight this virus which not only kills but seriously threatens the economic and social stability of the continent," Benedict said, according to the AP report.
Pro-life groups and abortion advocates have fought vigorously over the best method to protect the African population from AIDS. Pro-life groups tout abstinence and abortion organizations favor using condoms.
Some point to a key anti-AIDS program in the African nation of Uganda that points to solid success of how focus on abstinence can decrease infection rates.
Washington-area investigative writer Carey Roberts wrote in a Washington Times article late last year that Uganda has been using abstinence to combat AIDS for 15 years.
"The results were impressive: the HIV infection rate in Uganda dropped from 15 percent to 5 percent. In 1991, 21 percent of pregnant women had the deadly HIV virus. Ten years later, that figure had dropped to 6 percent," Roberts wrote in the Times article.
In fact, only 6.2% of Ugandans in the 15-49 age group are now HIV-positive, compared with more than 15% in the early 1990s.
Observers are taking note of the Ugandan success story.
"Uganda has consequently become one of the rare success stories on a continent that is being ravaged by the HIV/Aids epidemic," writes the London Sunday Herald newspaper. "While the rate of new infections continues to increase in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda has succeeded in lowering its very high infection rates."
According to AP, the Pope told the bishops "the Catholic Church has always been at the forefront both in prevention and in treatment of this illness" and that "the traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only fail-safe way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS."