Islamic Clerics in India Join Fight Against HIV/AIDS

December 8, 2006

Source: Houston Chronicle

Wire Service: AP

SRINAGAR, INDIA — Public health authorities in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have found an unexpected ally in their battle against HIV/AIDS in the deeply conservative region.

The Jammu-Kashmir state AIDS prevention and control agency has enlisted hundreds of Islamic clerics to carry the message of safe sexual practices to Muslim believers. The state's mosques and seminaries have become the vanguard of an anti-AIDS campaign, officials said on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.

"Islamic scholars have helped us in a big way to spread the anti-AIDS message," said Mohammad Amin, a state health official.

Islamic preachers discuss Islamic condemnation of promiscuity, but to avoid offense they do not mention the use of condoms in their sermons. Muneer Ahmed Masoodi, a community health officer, said the participation of religious scholars has brought down AIDS infection rates in Ghana, Senegal and Uganda.

"Faith plays a great role in modeling the behavior of a person, and we have effectively used it in our campaign against AIDS," Amin said.