Secrecy, shame, fear, ostracism, death . . . those living with HIV and AIDS deal with these words on a daily basis. Today, among the world’s six billion people, 40 million are infected with HIV. Without prejudice to colour, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, or religion, this disease touches people from all walks of life. Many are told in judgement that this is punishment for their sins. Among those guilty of such attitudes are some followers of both Christianity and Islam. Both faiths generally encourage acceptance and love of others in one way or another.
Political leaders and religious figures of some Muslim countries deny the presence of HIV / AIDS in their nations, claiming their immunity to the virus. This attitude stems from Qu’ranic teachings prohibiting sex before and outside of marriage, homosexual behavior, and intravenous drug use. The unrelenting refusal to acknowledge the HIV crisis adversely affects the people contracting, living, and dying of HIV and AIDS in Muslim communities.
Consider these HIV / AIDS instances:
Abdul tests positive for HIV. He is beaten unconscious by his brothers and then disowned because of the shame he brought on his family. Abdul’s story is not uncommon among the Muslim community. The possibility of persecution keeps many from getting tested for HIV. Without this knowledge, they continue to unknowingly spread the disease to others.
The nature of Islamic belief adds to the complexity of the problem. Because women are perceived as a temptation, men and women have minimal interaction and communication. There is a culture of silence surrounding sexual practices and education. Such attempts at maintaining morality ironically often encourage additional sexual corruption in the Muslim community.
Reshma and HIV / AIDS
Reshma lives on the street. Her daughter’s weak cry fills the air. She was married and lived in an affluent neighbourhood. One year ago Reshma’s husband died. Six months later when her daughter was born, Reshma found out she was HIV positive. Blamed for her husband’s death, Reshma was forced to leave home. She is now suffering from AIDS, unable to care for herself or her daughter. This burden of blame often falls upon the woman despite the fact that the husband’s infidelity led to his being exposed to HIV.
HIV / AIDS Statistics
* 25 million children will be orphans by 2010 because of AIDS (called AIDS orphans). Africa has 12 million AIDS Orphans.
* 2.9 million people died from AIDS last year; nearly half a million were children under the age of 15
* 4.8 million people were newly infected with HIV last year; that’s 14,000 a day!
* 38 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS
* 70 million deaths from AIDS are estimated in the next 20 years
(Sources: UNAIDS/WHO 2006 Report on the global AIDS epidemic – opens a new window.)
Pray for AIDS and HIV victims
* Victims like Abdul and Reshma – that they would fully experience compassion and as a result, the message of Christ would penetrate their hearts. Believers to provide scripture-based counselling and support before, during, and after HIV testing.
* Key leaders in Muslim countries/communities who have a great deal of power and influence to acknowledge HIV and provide education, treatment and support for victims.
* Children orphaned by AIDS deaths and children with HIV to know God as their heavenly father and to be “cared for in their distress” (James 1:27; Ps. 68:5).
* The development and implementation of character-based programs in Muslim communities promoting abstinence and trust in God’s design for sexual fulfilment.