The Botswana ABC campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS has once again come under attack, this time from the catholic pulpit.
“Common sense” chastity, and not government-promoted “condom sense, “is the solution to the AIDS epidemic, Botswana’s leading prelate said in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need.
“It is in the educational aspect where we differ,” said Bishop Valentine Tsamma Seane of Gaborone. “The government, for instance, promotes
condoms; condom-sense instead of common sense. The Church talks about common sense because the Church understands that as human beings we are intellectual beings with the ability to control ourselves, and we can do that if we are educated.”
The ABC slogan was first adopted by the Botswana government in the late 1990s and was flighted on billboards around the country exalting the fact that: Avoiding AIDS as easy as… Abstain, Be faithful, Condomise.
This was primarily a slogan used as part of a general public AIDS awareness campaign, and it did not attempt to define the circumstances under which the component parts of A, B and C would be promoted and whom they would be promoted to. The slogan suffered the first controversy when it clashed with the US funded PEPFAR campaign. The controversy arose from the differences between these two definitions of ABC, and in particular the fact that with the PEPFAR definition there is no promotion of condoms for young people (or anyone else outside the “high risk groups”), and that with abstinence the emphasis is on abstaining until marriage. Bishop Seane, on the other hand, points out that, “You cannot think that by distributing prophylactics to people that you can say that you are doing something,” he continued. “If people are conditioned, they become totally dependent and then they lose their ability to contain themselves and you end up behaving on your impulses, feelings and senses and forgetting that you have the ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and forgetting that you are a responsible person.”
Discussing his priorities as bishop, he added that, “I want to encourage local vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I want the indigenous people to be able to discern and respond to God’s call so that the Church can be in the hands of the local people who understand the culture of the people. So far it is very promising because there are 16 young men in the major seminary.”
According to Vatican statistics, 5 of Botswana’s 1.9 million people are Catholic.