The Vatican also has been the world's loudest and most consistent voice in opposition to what the United Nations, most governments and the vast majority of international organizations involved in the AIDS fight say are the most realistic and effective ways to slow the spread of HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
In Senegal, where more than 90 percent of the population is Muslim, the spread of HIV slowed dramatically after Islamic and Christian leaders joined a government AIDS-prevention campaign advocating condoms along with abstinence and fidelity. "Sixteen years ago, people didn't talk about AIDS," Senegalese Imam Ousmane Gueye said during a U.N.-organized visit there last month. "Islam forbids all evil and fornication" as well as condoms, he said, but that teaching has been adapted for people with AIDS to prevent the spread of infection.
When AIDS appeared in the early 1980s, its concentration among gay men raised no challenges to the doctrine. Homosexual acts were already considered sinful, with or without condoms. But by the 1990s, when AIDS started to spread like wildfire among heterosexuals and in the poorest parts of the world, doctrines began to collide on "a series of issues where social justice teaching cut across bioethics teaching," said the dean of Harvard Divinity School, J. Bryan Hehir, a Roman Catholic priest with long experience in human rights and humanitarian work. "Before, you could pursue most of the social justice and not run into these tensions."
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