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No more circumcision advertising, bishop cries: The Church of England Newspaper, April 22, 2012 p 6 April 26, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Church of the Province of Uganda, Health/HIV-AIDS.
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Promoting circumcision as a prophylactic against the spread of HIV/AIDs was a waste of government funds, a Ugandan bishop has warned.

Speaking to a 12 April 2012 gathering of the clergy of the Diocese of West Ankole, Bishop Yona Katoneene called upon the ministry of health to redirect funding from its campaign to encourage male circumcision to one that promotes abstinence.

The bishop did not oppose the government promotion of circumcision for reasons of hygiene and general health, but warned that its promotion to stop HIV/AIDS was ineffectual as it did not address the behaviors that led to the spread of the disease. And, he warned, it also encouraged people to engage in immoral behavior.

“After circumcision some people think that it is a ticket for one to engage in sex and this is likely to worsen the spread of HIV/AIDS in communities,” the bishop said, according to local press accounts of his speech.

The campaign to halt the spread of the disease by promoting abstinence education had worked, he said.  However, overseas aid agencies had different priorities and were more ready to provide funds for their pet projects.  The bishop said that if money spent on advertising circumcision were spent instead on purchasing bicycles to allow youth workers to travel between villages to educate young people about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and to promote abstinence, the disease could be contained.

Circumcision as a prophylactic against HIV/AIDs has a mixed record in Africa. In 2010, the chairman of Malawi’s National Aids Commission, Archbishop Bernard Malango said his group would not recommend the government adopt circumcision as a government policy.  He said that a comparison of the rates of infection in Muslim districts, where most men are circumcised, to that of Christian areas of Malawi, where circumcision is not practiced, showed no difference in the rate of infections.

“We have no scientific evidence that circumcision is a sure way of slowing down the spread of AIDS,” Dr. Mary Shaba, the government’s chief HIV/AIDS officer said at the press conference with Archbishop Malango.

However, a 2006 report from the U.S. government’s National Institute of Health found that male circumcision significantly halts the spread of the disease.

Archbishop Malango to mediate Malawi crisis: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 26, 2011 p 7. August 27, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Politics.
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Archbishop Bernard Malango

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The former Primate of Central Africa has been appointed chairman by the Malawi government of the mediation team tasked with finding an amicable solution to the country’s political crisis.

However, opposition leaders and the media have questioned the independence and effectiveness of the Presidential Contact and Dialogue Group (PCDG), noting that its members were all linked to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and were government stooges.

On 13 August President Bingu wa Mutharika named Archbishop Bernard Malango as chairman of the (PCDG), which has been charged with acting as a “platform for contact and dialogue between government” and opposition groups.

The PCDG will “mediate, guide and propose ways of amicably solving any disputes and suggest how the people of Malawi can be united” with the “view to safeguard the peace, security and stability of Malawi.”

The committee was formed after weeks of political and social turmoil in the Central African nation. The protests took a violent turn on 20 July after a 20-point of concern petition was presented to the government by civil rights groups. Civil rights groups demanded the president declare his wealth, address foreign currency and fuel shortages that have all but shut down the economy, and restore diplomatic relations with Britain.

Street protests ensued on 20-21 July, and the security forces used live ammunition to disperse anti-government demonstrations, killing at least 18. The United States has frozen $350 million in foreign aid to Malawi, and the UK cut off its financial support of the impoverished nation after its high commissioner was expelled in May.

The PCDG and opposition leaders held a preliminary meeting on 16 August, facilitated by UN officials, to set guidelines for the talks.

According to a joint communiqué released after the meeting, “mutual respect, transparency, confidentiality and integrity were some of the shared values that emerged” from the talks. “Both parties recognized that dialogue must be pursued for the common good of Malawi,” the statement said.

The negotiators also agreed to permit a public vigil “within a period of four weeks,” allowing the opposition the opportunity of making a public statement of their concerns.

However, the Malawi press took a jaundiced view of the talks. A Nyasa Times editorial stated that while Archbishop Malango and the members of the PCDG were “well meaning and generally good people, this committee is doomed to fail even before it starts working.

It argued that the Malango committee was controlled by the president, who was politically “deaf.”

The president “subscribes to the out-dated philosophy that flexibility and a predisposition to compromise is a sign of weakness or a sell-out,” it said.

President Mutharika was in a weak political position, and the mass demonstrations were “here to stay for the remainder” of his term. The “creation of these useless committees is just another attempt to buy time, favours and sympathy,” the newspaper argued.