The International Red Cross and Red Crescent on Thursday criticized some religious groups over their attitudes about HIV/AIDS, contending that some groups are even actively fueling the stigma surrounding the disease, Agence France-Presse reports. "Each year, more and more people die from the disease, and it is the stigma and misinformation around HIV that is killing people," said Red Cross president Juan Manuel Suarez del Toro, speaking as part of the annual World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day events. This year's event focused on the stigma and discrimination surrounding AIDS.
The Red Cross claims that faith-based and other prominent religious organizations that actively condemn the use of condoms or single out members of high-risk groups, like men who have sex with men, for blame and discrimination are hampering the fight against AIDS. Bernard Gardiner, who heads the Red Cross's HIV/AIDS program, told journalists that people must be able to be open about the disease and that any group involved in HIV prevention work should stress the importance of safer sex. "What we need are clear messages for people, and one is that condoms work. This message should not be muddied," he said.