The Church of Scotland has criticised alleged police proposals to curb the distribution of condoms in saunas, saying “it would be folly to ignore the risks of unprotected sex”.
The force said it would not want to see items of a sexual nature in saunas but has denied trying to ban condoms.
Campaigners warned a ban would result in unprotected sex and higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Rather than trying to stigmatise clients of such venues – UK stakeholder policy is based on working with saunas in helping those most at risk with condom use, testing, and general HIV awareness.
On Thursday it was revealed six of Edinburgh’s 13 licensed saunas are to close after the city council refused to grant licences.
A submission by Police Scotland, calling for a ban on items of a sexual nature in saunas, was withdrawn without any discussion.
The Church of Scotland praised the council for rejecting the police condition.
The Rev Dr Robin Hill, convener of the Church’s HIV programme, said: “While issues of criminality need to be considered very seriously in licensing processes, it would be folly to ignore the risks associated with a possible increase in the incidence of unprotected sex in Edinburgh’s saunas.”
MSP Margo MacDonald welcomed the news that two saunas so far had been allowed to stay in business.
She said: “I cannot congratulate the council enough for finally standing up. This new wave of police and their zero tolerance policy is wrong.”
Earlier, Police Scotland denied its attempt to ban “items of a sexual nature” would include condoms.
Superintendent Matt Richards said: “Police Scotland submitted a number of written recommendations for their consideration.”
He added: “At no point do the recommendations make reference to the banning of condoms.”
A spokeswoman for Scotpep, which supports sex workers, said: “Banning condoms would not have been safe. It would have pushed safe sex messages back 30 years.”
Hedia Belhad, from UNAIDS, criticised the move and said it would undermine efforts to tackle China’s HIV epidemic.