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Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 14:37 GMT
Anger at Zambia anti-Aids ads
Young Zambians
Zambians are being urged to use condoms "every time"
By Anthony Kunda in Lusaka

With more than a million Zambians, out of a population of nine million, living with Aids, one would expect enthusiasm for every campaign measure against the scourge.

But in Zambia, the country's clergymen want television advertisements about the use of condoms - "every time you have sex" - removed.

Several clerics told BBC News Online that the advertisements - featuring youngsters of school-going age talking about condoms - are promoting promiscuity.

Condoms

Father Ignatius Mwebe, secretary-general of the Catholic Church, said: "The advertisements are justifying casual sex using a condom; that you can have sex anyhow so long you have a condom."

Max the Condom
Promoting condoms encourages promiscuity says church leaders
Father Mwebe seemed particularly perturbed that "the people being used in the advertisements are so young that they should not have anything to do with sex at their age".

What would be helpful, he added, are advertisements giving factual information about the dangers of Aids.

Reverend Joshua Banda, vice superintendent of the Pentecostal churches in Zambia, similarly said: "The advertisements are promoting the wrong moral values that will help to spread Aids."

Reverend Banda said there appeared to be more emphasis on marketing condoms rather than halting the spread of the deadly disease.

However, he explained that he is not for a "blanket ban" on condoms.

"What we are against are lopsided Anti-Aids messages that don't give a positive alternative to casual sex."

The Zambian clerics contend that the Health Ministry, which has crafted the advertisements, ought, instead, to be promoting abstinence.

Reverend Thomas Lumba, executive director of Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, said: "People should be told to avoid casual sex. After all condoms are not 100% safe."

Standing firm

But Health Minister Enoch Kavindele rejects the clergymen's sermonising, insisting that the advertisements will continue to run because "the messages have been very effective".

Health Minister Enoch Kavindele:
Health Minister Enoch Kavindele: Says church is blind in one eye
"The point is being driven home," he says.

Mr Kavindele said the alternative being peddled by the parsons is impractical, hinting that people are having casual sex, anyway.

"The church," he argued, "is blind in one eye because this issue of abstinence cannot easily help reduce Aids infections".

Mr Kavindele warned the moralising clergymen that "the prospects of preaching to an empty church are high. We have to use all media available to drive the point home".

Appeal

Clergymen have said that if Mr Kavindele refuses to withdraw the advertisements, they will consider seeking an audience with President Frederick Chiluba.

Father Mwebe said: "We are encouraged that President Chiluba himself has said abstinence is the best method."

The Zambian leader, a regular church worshipper, told a ruling party meeting last week: "I don't believe in condoms myself because they are a sign of weak morals on the part of the user."

But despite the protestations of the clerics, it seems the advertisements have caught on, even among children.

There is a story doing the rounds in public places in Lusaka, the capital, of a Dad whose four-year old son told him cheerily: "Daddy use a condom everytime you have sex!"

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See also:

29 Oct 99 | Crossing Continents
Zambia's orphaned generation
11 Jul 00 | Africa
Aids threat to Africa's economy
17 Aug 00 | Africa
Zambia's stylish president
26 Jun 00 | Africa
At the heart of an epidemic
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