Muslim clerics from 25 African countries failed to reach agreement on the use of condoms in preventing HIV and AIDS at a recent meeting in Zanzibar - writes Frank Jomo for Ecumenical News International.
The meeting was unable to reach a consensus on the issue, with some participants supporting the use of condoms to practise safer sex while others rejecting it, saying the use of such prophylactics promotes promiscuity especially among young people, the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, Plus News reported.
Plus News, a UN supported news agency that promotes the fight against HIV and AIDS, indicates that when the Network of African Islamic Faith-based Organizations was launched in March 2005, in Abuja, Nigeria, the religious leaders had given qualified support to the use of condoms.
"We support all appropriate methods of preventing HIV/AIDS," the leaders stated. "These include abstinence, being faithful and, when absolutely necessary, correct and consistent use of the condom between couples."
At the Zanzibar meeting, however, many clerics rejected the use of condoms. "The majority still stick to 'no promoting of condoms', and believe in abstinence and being faithful as preventive measures - condoms can only be used by HIV-positive couples," said Zanzibar's Dr Issa Ziddy, deputy secretary of the network.
Some participants, however, were reported to feel the organization needed to make a clear statement in favour of condom use in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Ebyan Salah, a gender advisor to the Somalia Transitional Federal Government said: "Let us strengthen advocacy in abstinence [A] and being faithful [B], but also promote the use of condoms [C] for those who fail to stick to A and B."
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]