March 26, 2006

God's Special Plans for Love in Burundi

Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the dominant religion in Burundi, have instructed priests only to conduct weddings for couples who possess a recent HIV test, and not to marry those who are HIV positive. Church leaders emphasize that those who are HIV positive or are unwilling to show their test results may still be married through a civil ceremony. The booklet issued to Burundian priests also forbids marriage for pregnant women.

What is peculiar about the Church’s position is that, relatively speaking for sub-Saharan Africa, Burundi does not have a high HIV prevalence rate (6%). Are Church authorities in Burundi making (possibly stigmatizing) marriage rules that in order to promote public health, or are they simply using HIV/AIDS as a tool to stamp their moral authority on Burundi society?

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