Kashmir Health Officials Use Islamic Teachings to Battle HIV/AIDS
Kashmiri health officials have begun using Islam's "strict" rules against extramarital sex in HIV prevention messages in the Indian state, Agence France-Presse reports. Similar programs in which Islamic religious leaders have linked extramarital sex to the spread of HIV have proven successful in Northern Africa, according to Dr. Muneer Masoodi, head of the state government's AIDS Control Society. According to Masoodi, the anti-AIDS messages of religious leaders "have more impact" in the state than other media campaigns. The religious leaders only advocate against sex outside of marriage and do not promote condom use or safe sex practices. Kashmir Health Minister Mian Altaf, who supports the program, attributes the region's HIV/AIDS problem to poverty, illiteracy and lack of sex education. Some others in the country think of HIV/AIDS as "a disease of foreigners and homosexuals." Religious leader Mohammed Yaqoob said on Friday that he "condemned people who indulge in 'adultery, immorality, homosexuality and sodomy'" and that "God deals with this lot ... only by giving them a ruthless death through AIDS." Ali Mohammed Dar, a mosque prayer leader, said that polygamy, which Islam allows, is a possible "solution" to sex outside of marriage. "Polygamy has been allowed in Islam to prevent adultery and it is a best shield against AIDS," he said. Approximately 25,000 of Kashmir's 10 million residents are HIV-positive, and India has the second-largest HIV-positive population worldwide (Wani, Agence France-Presse, 5/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.