Church Is Africa's Ally Against AIDS

Cardinal Protests Media's Portrayal as Enemy

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By Chiara Santomiero

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Durban, South Africa, is asking journalists why the media continually portrays the Church as part of the problem, not the solution, to AIDS.

Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier stated this in a press conference Wednesday, the second that was called to present the "relatio post disceptationem" (report after the debate) of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

This report summarized the concerns of the synodal fathers regarding several aspects of African society. It made particular mention of various threats to the family, among them, widespread diseases such as AIDS.

The cardinal acknowledged that his country is primarily known for the "miraculous transition from the regime of apartheid to democracy," but also for the "high rate of those infected with AIDS."

In this area, he added, "the Church carries out a very important function in the treatment of the disease and the quality of care."

The prelate reported that ecclesial institutions offer information on the disease to avoid contagion.

As well, he continued, they build relations with pharmaceutical companies, intervening to verify the effectiveness of the retroviral drugs given to the sick, while encouraging continual research.

Cardinal Napier affirmed that the Church leaders try to provide support "in the best possible way, implementing prevention programs that also require careful attention to the cause of this great spread of the disease."

"If, in general lines, the cause must be sought in irresponsible sexual behavior, we cannot fail to say that we need responsible sexual behavior," he continued.

The cardinal underlined two principles in this regard: "If one is married, one must be faithful to one's spouse; if one is not married, it is necessary to abstain from irresponsible practices."

He emphasized the necessity of using all means possible to transmit these principles. "In our diocese," he said, "we have a program called 'The Gift of Life,' which has as its objective to make adolescents in the first place, but also adults, understand the importance of transmitting life through the sexual act."

The prelate concluded, "The sexual act should lead to procreation and, although we know that in the West there are different beliefs, for us it is important that the sexual act be the moment of the creation of life."