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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 18:26 GMT
HIV test for Burundian weddings
HIV-positive woman in Burundi
About 6% of Burundians are HIV positive
Roman Catholic Church leaders in Burundi have told priests not to conduct wedding ceremonies for people unless they have taken an HIV test.

Contrary to initial reports, those who are found to be positive can still be married - the church says it wants both partners to know the other's status.

New guidelines in a booklet issued by the church authorities also forbid church weddings for pregnant women.

About 70% of the people in Burundi are Roman Catholics.

To moralise to people or give good advice... does not mean becoming a policeman or giving orders
Jeanne Gapiya
Aids activist

About 6% of adult Burundians are HIV positive, according to the United Nations.

'Forced tests'

The head of programmes for the Catholic Church in Burundi, Father Gerase Mugerowimana, said the guidelines were designed to clarify the Church's position on religious weddings.

"There was a meeting of bishops who decided that young couples who wish to be married have to present an HIV test certificate," he said.

"We do not demand that the fiances show us the test results, but we demand the proof that they have taken the test and told the truth."

But an association of people with HIV, ANSS, said it was against "forced tests"..

"The church has a duty to moralise to people, but to moralise to people or give good advice... does not mean becoming a policeman or giving orders," ANSS head Jeanne Gapiya said.

Burundi is recovering from a decade of civil war, which made it difficult to run public information programmes about Aids, and led hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Country profile: Burundi
26 Feb 04 |  Country profiles


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