31 Mar 2006

Catholic church clinics in PNG hand out condoms

10:29 am on 31 March 2006

Some Catholic bishops in Papua New Guinea are bucking the Vatican's ban on condoms by allowing church clinics in PNG to give them to infected people to slow an AIDS epidemic.

Bishop Gilles Cote, a French Canadian who heads the Daru-Kiunga diocese in Western Province, says if one of two partners is infected and they cannot abstain from sex, then it is wise to provide condoms.

He says there's a moral responsibility that they are protected.

Rome bans the use of condoms outright and insists that abstinence is the best way to combat the disease.

PNG has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the Pacific with heterosexual transmission the main driver.

Around two per cent of the four million-strong population are feared HIV-positive.

Earlier this month a cabinet minister called for church groups to put aside their religious and moral biases and give 100 per cent support to condom use in the country.