Pakistan AIDS Campaign Reaches Out Through Islam
July 21, 2006
Pakistan has 3,297 reported HIV/AIDS cases, but officials in the national AIDS control program think the actual figure is likely more than 80,000. "The reported ones are just the tip of the iceberg," said Qamar-ul-Islam Siddiqi, a program coordinator. "We have enlisted the help of religious leaders and clerics and printed specific material of Koranic teachings in order to reach the majority of Pakistan's 160 million people."
To address taboos in the conservative society, the program produced a reference book and posters with Koranic verses that stress the need for compassion and care in dealing with the sick, and that observe Islamic teachings against sex outside marriage. Other Islamic countries, such as Indonesia and Egypt, have translated the Pakistani material for use in their own campaigns.
Dr. Iqbal Khalil, a senior leader of Pakistan's main religious opposition party, has used the reference book to prepare sermons for Friday prayers. "We are encouraging even strict clerics in northwestern areas to deliver this model sermon to create more awareness among the people," Khalil said.
Although the incidence of reported HIV/AIDS cases in Pakistan's northwest is low, the number of unreported cases is believed to be quite high, since many Pakistani migrant workers in the Middle East come from the area or the villages of central Punjab province.
Dr. Adnan Khan, a consultant with the program, said many migrant workers are deported from the Middle East after testing positive. "It is very important to make them aware of the risk they pose to their families and to change their lifestyle," Khan said.
Pakistan's government launched its program in 1995 but, according to Islam, it has been difficult to create awareness due to social and religious constraints and the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.