Campaign to End Catholic Bishops Ban on Condoms Comes to AIDS Conference

Campaign Invites Conference Participants to Email the Vatican with Information on the Immorality and Risks of Banning Condoms

 

Barcelona–An international delegation from Africa, Latin America, Europe and the United States called today for an end to the Catholic bishops ban on condoms at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Spain. Condoms4Life campaign supporters are carrying a provocative and blunt message to the conference that prohibiting condom use and distribution in the world’s 100,000 Catholic hospitals is immoral.

The Condoms4Life public education campaign, which includes billboard and newspaper advertising, is part of an unprecedented worldwide public education effort aimed at Catholics and non-Catholics alike to raise public awareness of the devastating effect of the bishops’ ban on condoms. Ads have appeared the last six months around the world in countries with a significant Catholic population or AIDS crisis, such as Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the United States and Canada. This public education effort is the first phase of a sustained mobilizing effort to change the Vatican’s policy against availability and access to condoms, especially in countries where HIV transmission and AIDS deaths are rising dramatically. The effect of the bishops ban on condoms–the only technology available that can prevent sexual transmission of HIV–has been noted by world leaders in the fight against AIDS.

Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice and the campaign’s leader said today “The Catholic bishops preach sanctity of life. But their ban on condoms contributes to the tragedy of AIDS and death around the world. Most Catholics disagree with this policy. Yet the Catholic bishops, who control 100,000 hospitals and 200,000 other social services worldwide, ban both education about and provision of condoms in their institutions. The church claims to provide treatment for 25% of those infected with HIV/AIDS. That means an estimated 9 million people living with HIV/AIDS are potentially treated by a caregiver who denies them information on and access to condoms that could help prevent the spread of AIDS.”

The Campaign’s message goes beyond a simple plea for a change in internal church policy. Elfriede Harth, European Representative of Catholics for a Free Choice said, “Because religiously controlled institutions often receive public funds to run AIDS services, the Catholic hierarchy’s ban on condoms is a concern to us all. Public policy makers really need to take a critical look at how the bishops’ policy affects their ability to play a responsible role in AIDS prevention efforts. The bishops’ opposition to condoms in the developing world hurts the poorest of the poor. The tragedy is that these are the very people the church calls on the world to help.”

The ads, which will appear in a dozen countries throughout the year, invite the public to join a global campaign to end the ban (www.condoms4life.org). People who join the campaign are asked to contact local policy makers, expressing support for the availability of condoms and concern that Catholic bishops not undermine responsible public health policy on HIV/AIDS.

European political leaders from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Spain and the United Kingdom recently gave their support to the campaign. In an advertisement appearing in the European Voice newspaper, 29 political leaders signed their support for the Condoms4Life campaign and for an end to the Vatican’s ban on condoms.

Condoms4Life ads, appearing in different countries in various forms, are generating controversy and discussion. In Mexico and South Africa, despite pressure put on advertising vendors to stop billboard ads from going up, the campaign rolled out on schedule; in Washington, DC, the Catholic archdiocese attempt to ban the advertisements failed when their claim that subway metro ads were false was rejected; in Canada, conservative Catholics tried but failed to have billboard ads banned.

At the XIV International AIDS Conference international supporters of the campaign will present information at workshops and parallel events as well as staffing an exhibit at Booth 110, NGO Exhibits Hall 2. Visitors will be invited to email the Vatican and let the bishops know how they feel about the ban on the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS. Campaign supporters will be distributing stickers which say “Tell the Vatican that condoms are for life.” Roughly 15,000 participants from around the world are expected to attend the conference.

The Condoms4life Campaign is particularly important in Catholic countries. “When the head of the Mexican Red Cross, responding to pressure from the Catholic bishops, came out and said that condoms cause AIDS, the impact was devastating,” stated María Consuelo Mejía, director of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, México, who is present at this AIDS Conference with the Condoms4Life Campaign. “With 150,000 Mexicans living with HIV, we cannot afford any confusion about the best way to prevent HIV transmission–use a condom every time you have sex.”

The Condoms4Life website contains facts on HIV/AIDS as well as details of the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to condoms around the world. There is also an online sign-up form for individuals and groups interested in the campaign.

The international delegation will be in Barcelona, Spain, and will be available to speak with members of the press from July 7 through July 12. An appointment may be made by calling (+00) 33-6-8422-0884 or visiting our booth in the NGO exhibit hall, Booth 110-NGO Exhibits Hall 2.

 

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