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While the debate over how to best tackle the spread of HIV is alive and well in South Africa, a Pastor in Cape Town has taken the topic to a controversial new level by claiming that Jesus Christ was HIV positive.

In a series of sermons delivered at Luhlaza High School in Khayelitsha township, Cape Town, Pastor Xola Skosana declared that Jesus Christ had “put himself in the shoes of people who experience brokenness” and had channeled the suffering of his followers by experiencing their same sickness, pain and marginalization, reports the BBC.

Local’s dismay at the content of the sermons quickly spread to the national arena following the events in Cape Town, forcing Pastor Skosana to explain his approach.

“The best gift we can give to people who are HIV-positive is to help de-stigmatize AIDS and create an environment where they know God is not against them, he’s not ashamed of them,” he said.

But while some groups praise the pastor’s metaphor as a means of reaching out to the infected and enhancing the debate about HIV prevention in South Africa, others are outraged over the connection he has made between Jesus and the precarious situations in which the virus can be contracted.

Fellow religious leaders have noted that the metaphor jeopardizes believers’ understanding of Jesus as supreme and God, ultimately rendering him part of the problem and not the solution.

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South Africa has been at the forefront of international attention in recent months with its audacious discussions and approaches to HIV prevention.

Home to the largest population of people living with the virus, in June this year the country played host to a conference focusing on the link between male circumcision and a significant reduction in the spread of HIV.

REPORT: Events In South Africa Perpetuate Male Circumcision Debate

Representatives from Johns Hopkins University and US government delegates were reported to be in attendance at the event, in which researchers, South African authorities and medical experts expressed the possibility of circumcision being able to reduce the spread of HIV by 60 per cent.

Around the same time in KwaZulu-Natal province, 800 boys and young men had been circumcised by authorized medical teams in that provincial government’s push to circumcise 186,703 boys and young men in 2010/2011.

South Africa as a whole is expected to circumcise 2 million boys in the next 5 years.

You can read more about Pastor Xola Skosana’s sermons on the BBC website.

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