Orthodox church launches sex initiative

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian Orthodox Church launched a new program Tuesday to help stem Russia's snowballing HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Government and U.N. experts officials praised the initiative while others criticized the church, saying action was long overdue.
The church prevention program calls for teaching to discourage sex with multiple partners and gay sex, practices the church regards as sinful and that may lead to infection.
In addition, priests and other church workers are instructed to treat people infected with HIV/AIDS "as any other person suffering from some serious illness" and are encouraged to promote tolerance. Also, church hot lines will help those with the diseases.
The Rev. Vladimir Shmal said the program was not limited to Orthodox Christians.
Since the Soviet collapse, HIV/AIDS has been spreading at an alarming pace in Russia because of weak anti-drug and prevention programs. Experts say those infected exceed 1 million, three times the official total.

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