Muslims Should Reduce HIV/AIDS Stigma To Help Fight Epidemic in Africa, Opinion Piece Says
Muslims need to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in order to fight the epidemic and help AIDS orphans in Africa, columnist Sheema Khan writes in a Toronto Globe and Mail opinion piece. Although a Harvard University study published in May showed that HIV prevalence in predominately Muslim areas in Africa is lower than in other parts of the continent "due primarily to Islamic tenets, which, if followed, reduce sexual transmission of HIV," the "same taboos have been used to stigmatize the ill and dying," according to Khan. The "immensity of the pandemic" needs to be discussed at the grassroots level, such as during Friday sermons, Khan says. In addition, despite the "importance that Islam places on the welfare of orphans," it seems that "compassion has given way to ostracization" when it comes to AIDS orphans, Khan says, suggesting that "Muslim charities that provide sponsorship of orphans in the Muslim world can team up with their Christian counterparts, such as CARE, to work together for the benefit of orphans in Africa." The month of Ramadan, which began last week, is "a time to help those who are less fortunate -- especially orphans, widows and the ill -- for we are all part of the human family," Khan says, adding, "[I]t is this humanity that should impel Muslims to look beyond the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, into the expansive nature of compassion." Khan concludes, "Isn't it time to break from the clash of civilizations and try to save one that is dying before our eyes?" (Khan, Toronto Globe and Mail, 10/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.