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Catholic thumbs-up for AIDS drugs after "infected" condoms claim =

By dpa news     Sep 27, 2007 in Health
The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) reaffirmed its support for the use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in treating HIV/AIDS Thursday after a Mozambican bishop sensationally claimed some condoms and ARVs were "deliberately HIV-infected."
The Roman Catholic Church in southern Africa is the second-largest provider of ARVs for HIV/AIDS treatment (after the state), SACBC spokesman, Chris Townsend told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
Between 10,000 and 12,000 people in the region were receiving ARVs daily from church-based clinics, he said.
The church's ARV distribution scheme was "most successful" because the church also provided home-based care of HIV patients and compliance monitoring to ensure they took their ARVs at the same time each day, he further added.
Townsend was reacting to sensational remarks by the head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique, Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, about condoms and ARVs.
Chimoio in an interview with the BBC Wednesday claimed some European-made condoms and some anti-retroviral drugs were deliberately infected with HIV "in order to finish quickly the African people.
Townsend declined to comment directly on the BBC report, saying he had yet to hear it first-hand.
Some church sources have, however, expressed surprise at the bishop's remarks, describing them as "uncharacteristic."
Chimoio's attitude come against the background of a rapid rise in HIV infection in Mozambique in recent years to around 16 per cent.
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which funds HIV prevention and treatment in Mozambique to the tune of 185 million dollars over five years, refused to comment on Chimoio's remarks.
The head of the Mozambique's National AIDS Council Diogo Milagro also refused to be drawn on the matter, saying he had to discuss the matter with the council's working group on condoms first.
The council was trying to expand the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission, he said, adding that while the HIV awareness level in the country was high this was not necessarily reflected in sexual behaviour.
Some 17 per cent of Mozambique's population of around 19 million inhabitants are Roman Catholics.
Chimoio's remarks have drawn comparisons with South Africa's past denialist stance on HIV/AIDS, where President Thabo Mbeki once questioned the link between HIV and AIDS and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has downplayed the role of ARVs in treatment. dpa cb bve