October 27, 2009
The director of Positive Muslims, an organization that aims to support those living with HIV, is calling on South African Muslims to break the silence that often surrounds AIDS.
"For a long time, our Muslim community has preferred to ignore the problem of HIV/AIDS," said Raoul Ridwaan Swart. "Others think HIV/AIDS does not exist among them."
Swart said he was "extremely shocked" by the results of a survey, conducted by Positive Muslims, which indicated that 2.56 percent of residents in three predominantly Islamic Cape Town suburbs were HIV-positive.
"I respect the teachings of Islam about no premarital sex, but this [does] not mean that all Muslims have stuck by this rule," Swart said. "Some of our youth engage in sex before marriage, while some married couples engage in extramarital affairs. This is risky behavior and as a community we need to stop the silence and speak about it, so that we eliminate the risk of HIV/AIDS before it penetrates deeper in our community."
Among the survey's other findings:
"Let me not be mistaken for promoting promiscuous behavior," Swart said. "What I'm saying here is condoms can be used by married couples who are HIV-positive so as to avoid re-infection, or if they are not sure of their statuses. While on the other hand, unmarried people who are sexually active, especially the youth, we advise you to abstain."