New HIV strategy for Christian Aid

Christian Aid has broken ranks with other faith-based NGOs tackling HIV by abandoning the widely-used 'ABC doctrine' that advises abstinence ahead of all other forms of prevention.

The faith-based development agency has adopted a new mantra that prioritises safer sexual practices - a move that it admits has upset several of its supporters.

Supporters were not consulted about the policy change, details of which were released through the charity's website. However, Christian Aid insists most of the feedback has so far been positive.

"I have had numerous emails, 95 per cent of which have been positive," said Dr Rachel Baggaley, head of the HIV unit at Christian Aid. Baggaley hopes to combat any complaints with a lengthier explanation of the new policy, to be released later this month.

ABC teaches people that abstinence is best, being faithful is second-best if abstinence is impossible and that condoms should be used only as a last resort. Christian Aid ditched the doctrine after a meeting with partners working on the ground who expressed a preference for the Save policy - safer practices, available medications, voluntary counselling and testing, and empowerment through education.

The move is not likely to be replicated by other development agencies, however. Cafod, which includes ABC in its approach, has reinforced the importance of abstinence. "We believe abstinence has a very important role to play," said a spokeswoman for the overseas development agency.

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