First Global Campaign to End Catholic Bishops’ Ban on Condoms Launched on Internet, Billboards, In Subways and Newspapers
“Banning Condoms Kills” is World AIDS Day message for massive mobilizing effort in U.S., Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America to change Vatican’s condom policy.
The first global campaign to end the Catholic bishops’ ban on condoms is being launched by Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) on the eve of World AIDS Day 2001. Billboards and ads in subways and newspapers carrying the message “Banning Condoms Kills” will begin appearing around the world on November 30. This unprecedented worldwide public education effort is aimed at Catholics and non-Catholics alike to raise public awareness of the devastating effect of the bishops’ ban on condoms. It invites the public to join a global campaign to end the ban—Condoms4life at www.condoms4life.org. People who join the campaign will be asked to contact local policy makers and express their support for the availability of condoms and their concern that the bishops should not undermine responsible public health policy on HIV/AIDS.
The roll out of advertising in the U.S. and in countries with a significant Catholic population or AIDS crisis, such as Mexico, the Philippines, Kenya, South Africa, Chile, and Zimbabwe, is the first phase of a sustained mobilizing effort to change the Vatican’s policy and its aggressive lobbying against availability and access to condoms, especially in areas of the world where HIV transmission and AIDS deaths are rising dramatically.
“The Vatican and the world’s bishops bear significant responsibility for the death of thousands of people who have died from AIDS,” stated Frances Kissling, president of CFFC, an advocacy organization of Catholics who disagree with Vatican positions on sexuality and reproduction. “For individuals who follow the Vatican policy and Catholic healthcare providers who are forced to deny condoms, the bishops’ ban is a disaster. Real people are dying from AIDS. Real bishops are silently acquiescent. We can no longer stand by and allow the ban to go unchallenged.”
The initial phase of the Condoms4life campaign includes advocacy advertising that starts on November 30 in Washington, DC, with 50 bus shelter and 225 subway poster ads and a Federal Page ad in The Washington Post. In Europe, a full-page ad in The Guardian Weekly will appear on November 29. Billboards will go up at prominent locations in January 2002 in Brussels, Belgium; Cape Town, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Harare, Zimbabwe; La Paz, Bolivia; Santiago, Chile; Mexico City, Mexico; and, Manila, the Philippines, with newspaper ads reinforcing the message, “Catholic People Care — Do Our Bishops? Banning Condoms Kills.” (Newspaper and billboard ads can be viewed at www.condoms4life.org.) 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. UNAIDS director, Peter Piot, stated in June 2001 that “When priests preach against using contraception, they are committing a serious mistake which is costing human lives. We do not ask the church to promote contraception, but merely to stop banning its use.”
The Condoms4life campaign ads point out that many of the 4,435 plus bishops worldwide actively lobby governments and the United Nations to restrict access to condoms claiming that condoms cause AIDS, not prevent it. For example, the South African Catholic Bishops Conference said:
“Widespread and indiscriminate promotion of condoms [is] an immoral and misguided weapon in our battle against HIV-AIDS. … Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV-AIDS.”
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. “With 150,000 Mexicans living with HIV and AIDS, we cannot afford any confusion about the best way to prevent HIV transmission— use a condom every time you have sex.”
The campaign will be visible in European countries as well, with a billboard going up first in Brussels in early 2002, where the European Union plays a significant role in HIV/AIDS funding to developing countries. “Now is the time for the European governments to put pressure on the bishops to change their life-denying policy,” said Elfriede Harth, European representative for Catholics for a Free Choice. “All of our worthwhile efforts to fight AIDS are undercut by those bishops and the Vatican who work to deny access to condoms.”
In addition to the advocacy advertising on billboards and newspapers, the CFFC news journal, Conscience, distributed to policy makers and opinion leaders in over 100 countries, has just released a special issue called A Body Weakened: The Church and AIDS.