'Aloysius Giay, chairman of the province’s Unit for the Acceleration of Health Care Development, a body set up by newly elected governor Lukas Enembe, said health workers and churches are "sometimes at odds" over approaches on how best to deal with the HIV epidemic.
"Christians consider circumcision to be a taboo, while health workers recommend it as an effective measure to prevent HIV infection," he said. "Health officials are calling for the use of condoms, but religious people accuse us of encouraging promiscuity."
"People [in the church] have this holier-than-thou attitude,” he said. “With money flowing in, and people having new-found wealth, it’s inevitable they engage in risky behaviour."
But Wospakrik said that while the church’s key message on HIV prevention is abstinence, it is not opposed to promoting condom use among those engaged in medically risky behaviour, such as men having sex with sex workers, he said.
Long-held traditional beliefs some rooted in religion also get in the way, Giay said. "Many tribespeople believe diseases are caused by evil spirits, God’s punishment or black magic, and refuse to be treated medically. That’s the issue that the church should tackle [in addition to HIV]."