Papua New Guinea Diocese Marks World AIDS Day the Catholic Way
Agreed: Condoms Do Not Prevent AIDS Proliferation
On Saturday the Catholic Diocese of Alotau, in Papua New Guinea, celebrated World HIV AIDS Day today, a day ahead of its actual celebration on 1st Dec. As a shepherd of souls for a diocese containing only 24 priests responsible for over 54,000 Catholics, Bishop Roland Santos gave witness to the teachings of both science and the Church, which show condom usage in no way guarantees safety from AIDS.
The staff of Star of Hope, the HIV AIDS Center of the Diocese of Alotau, headed the awareness march to places where most people gathered: the wharf, town plaza and marketplace. They shouted slogans like “Make a difference. Fight HIV AIDS.” However, unlike many who shout such slogans to incite fear and urge use of condoms, here the Diocese was supporting those who truly wish to stop the spread of AIDS.
Papua New Guinea was estimated as having 45,000 AIDS cases in 2018, and is considered by the UN to be at an “epidemic” level. Some areas of sex workers show nearly 20% infection rate, and many of those with the disease do not realize they are carriers. Various groups are being studied (heterosexual, homosexual, children, etc.) for rates of infection and prevention methods by the government. In his address, Bp. Rolando Santos said that this demonstration is meant not to scare people but to give them hope. PNG has the highest incidence of HIV AIDS in the whole of Oceania. However, this can be reversed if we exercise greater self-discipline, social responsibility, love for family and community, and respect for God’s laws.
He said that the Church is not discouraging or condemning sex, which is the primary way through which HIV AIDS is mostly transmitted. Rather, the Church wants people to exercise responsible sex and enjoy it as God wants it to be. Sex is beautiful, created by God and sacred. What makes it ugly and destructive is when it is used outside of the plan of God. Bp. Santos said that sex should only be used within the context of marriage. Having multiple sexual partners endangers one’s own life and health and those of spouses and children.
Working in the Mission Field with Bishop Santos
Bishop Santos is a long time friend of Human Life International (HLI). September 2018, the date of HLI’s last mission to the country, was comprised of three days of pro-life training provided to over 300 members of the religious and laity. Dr. Ligaya Acosta, HLI Regional Director for Asia/Oceania participated. She stated that after leading the HLI mission with Dr. Brian Clowes, HLI Director for Research and Education, Bishop Santos submitted a petition to the government, asking that contraception distribution cease, most especially the forced sterilization of the poor.
Bp. Santos also spoke against the myth that condoms and contraceptives can protect oneself from HIV AIDS. Rather, the use of contraceptives worsens the situation as seen in countries like Thailand, since it creates a false sense of security and leads to increasingly irresponsible and illegitimate sex and higher rates of HIV AIDS transmission.
If a person doubts whether he/she has acquired the virus, he advised an immediate visit to the Star of Hope in Papua New Guinea or another outreach center for testing and counseling. If the test is positive, one should refrain from sexual activity so as not to contaminate others, specifically one’s spouse. Testing, he emphasized, is anonymous.
Finally, like HLI he also encouraged them to be faithful! Follow God’s commandments, and do not engage in extramarital sex outside of marriage comprised of one man and one woman. Purity and chastity according to one’s state in life, single, married or religious, is the way to true happiness.
Bishop Rolando Santos, CM, Bishop of Alotau Sideia, contributed to this report.
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