Niger’s Religious Leaders Form Alliance To Prevent Spread of HIV
Catholic, Muslim and Protestant religious leaders in Niger have formed an alliance to teach youth in the country about HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports. The alliance aims to help the government fight the spread of the virus by promoting HIV tests and through better integration of HIV-positive people into society.
According to Reuters, 95% of Niger's population is Muslim, and Islamic leaders have a large influence over the country's population. Religious Affairs Minister Labo Issaka said that religious groups are "ideally placed to influence people's values and behavior" because of "their impact on communities and households, and the way they are organized and present on the ground."
According to Reuters, about half of Niger's population is under age 15. About 1% of the population ages 15 to 49 is HIV-positive, according to United Nations estimates. Although Niger's HIV prevalence is low in comparison to many other sub-Saharan African countries, the country's population is growing rapidly, which could lead to an increase in HIV cases, and government officials have pledged not to be complacent.
Earlier this summer, government officials set up 40 medical centers in the country's capital, Niamey, where people can receive no-cost HIV tests. About 9,000 young people came forward to be tested, but authorities had anticipated 22,000, according to Reuters. HIV/AIDS prevention education is difficult in Niger because less than half of children attend school, and eight in 10 adults are illiterate, Reuters reports (Massalatchi, Reuters, 8/6).