The Case for Condoms

By Buchanan, John M. | The Christian Century, June 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Case for Condoms


Buchanan, John M., The Christian Century


IN MARCH, when Pope Benedict XVI, on a flight to Cameroon, declared that the use of condoms is not the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa--that, on the contrary, it "increases the problem"--I thought immediately of Francis Ntowe. I met Ntowe years ago when he came to the U.S. from Cameroon. He became an elder in the Presbyterian Church. He cared deeply about the HIV/AIDS epidemic rampant in his native land and throughout Africa. (Of the 33 million people who live with HIV/AIDS, 22 million of them are in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.) Ntowe talked to anyone who would listen about the problem of AIDS in Africa.

One person who listened was another Presbyterian elder, Bernard Blaauw, a medical internist. Together with members of the Chicago church I serve, the two founded the Cameroon America AIDS Alliance (CAAA), which operates an AIDS clinic in Kumba, Cameroon, attached to a hospital operated by the country's Presbyterian Church. Blaauw heads up the clinic and is in residence in Kumba several months of the year. Members of my congregation support the clinic financially and volunteer at the clinic. Northwestern Memorial Hospital has donated equipment and furnishings worth more than $100,000.

In addition to treating patients living with HIV/AIDS, the clinic focuses on prevention. In a culture in which public discussion of sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases has been very difficult in the past and where condom use is low, the CAAA and Blaauw have conducted workshops for community leaders and pastors to equip them to speak openly about how AIDS is contracted and how it is prevented. There is a poster in the Presbyterian synod office in the city of Buea, Cameroon, that states the ABCs of AIDS prevention: A) Abstinence in the single life; B) Being faithful in married life; C) Condoms. …

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