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Aids and our Moral Responsibility

 

Pastoral Statement issued by Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference October 1987

 

AIDS AND OUR MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

October 1987

 

AIDS (Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is spreading in our society and we would be lacking in our pastoral duty if we did not lend our voice to those helping to counteract the spread of this disease.

First of all we state that our primary concern is for AIDS sufferers, their families and friends who also suffer much distress. We consider that this severe disease is a consequence of the law of nature. Misuse of alcohol or drugs creates serious health problems. The misuse of sex is the major cause of the spread of AIDS in our society and this, too, brings most serious health problems. AIDS may be seen, too, as God's answer to man's disregard for His moral law (cf Matthew 5, 27-32), but God is also the God of compassion who bids us to be compassionate too (cf  Colossians 3, 12-15).

 

1. MODES OF INFECTION

AIDS can be contracted by the use of an infected surgical needle  or razor blade. This calls for special care by medical staff (which they are now taking) and the abandonment of the use of an inadequately sterilised razor blade for surgery by traditional healers.

But the main mode of transmission of this disease. in Africa is by heterosexual contact and it is precisely here that all persons can help to stop its spread. Promiscuity is at the root' of the problem. The disease is contracted during sexual intercourse with an infected person, male 'or female. Some medical authorities advocate the use of a condom during sexual intercourse' to prevent infection. However condoms 'are not completely reliable and their users can still contract AIDS and transmit it to others. Married persons-who are sexually promiscuous can infect their wives or husbands. The only safe course is not to have sexual relations with an' infected person.

 

2. CHRISTIAN MORALITY

In order to face this serious health and moral challenge we have to return to the source of morality and consider our attitude to human relationships and to sexuality within this context. Chastity before marriage and fidelity to one's, partner after marriage, should not be seen as impossible ideals

in spite of prevalent sexual laxity. It may be that on account of fear of AIDS people will reform their moral standards. However, rather than on fear, we should seek to rest our moral standards on the knowledge of God's love for us and to respond to His love by keeping His Law which forbids sexual promiscuity.

 

3. TRADITIONAL VALUES

African traditional values reinforce the Christian Law in, this regard. Virginity of both bride and bridegroom were highly praised and expected, With damages to pay if there was an infringement of virginity. So when the Church condemns both pre-marital and extra-marital sex it is keeping to our local traditions and not asking the impossible.

 

4. MESSAGE FOR YOUTH

We have a special message for our youth, both young men and

young women, to resist the fashion of the day in matters of sexuality. They should try to see their companions as persons of immense worth and beauty and not sexual objects. They should look forward to joining a marriage partner of honesty and chastity and one whom they can be sure has not-contracted the AIDS' virus.

We believe that both partners to a marriage should feel free to ask for an assurance that their future partner is free of infection, even if this may mean taking blood tests to reassure themselves. We would also urge government, for the  health of the nation, to make incipient AIDS (H.I.V. positive) a reportable disease in order to assess the size of the problem. Such H.I.V. positive persons should receive support and counseling.

 

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5. OUR RESPONSE TO THE AFFLICTED

We wish our people  to obtain accurate information from medical sources about the contraction and spread of this disease.