recent sermon at a small Cairo mosque was unusual both for
its topic of HIV and its message of understanding and
compassion for those infected. Though he did not
address condom use, which is considered a
contraceptive only for married couples, he said even those
who contract HIV in "vulgar" ways should not be
"The sermons had
three points: first, what AIDS is; secondly, how it is
spread; and thirdly, that if someone has AIDS, it is an
obligation of us all not to ostracize them," said
Turky, a participant in a United Nations Development
Program workshop on spreading HIV awareness through
local religious leaders.
In 2004, senior
Islamic leaders publicly endorsed efforts to prevent HIV
and end discrimination against those infected.
"You can always
do good advocacy on top, but then trickling down is a
completely different story," said Maha Aon of the Joint
United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
A 2004 study
found that most Egyptian health workers surveyed believe
people with HIV should be removed from society, and most
university students think people with AIDS are
probably "lewd," or "have neither values nor
efforts include information packets demonstrating Islam's
willingness to tackle sexual topics. Quotes from the Prophet
Muhammad urge compassion and care for the well-being
of others and are applied to those affected by HIV.
According to 2003
figures, fewer than 0.1% of adults in Egypt are
HIV-positive. "There are two things that make us worry," Aon
said of those numbers. "If you plot the number of
cases reported to the ministry of health, it's quite a
steep rise. The other thing is that we don't know what
the situation is among the most vulnerable groups."
and religious condemnations facing those at HIV risk,
including men who have sex with men, injection-drug users,
and sex workers, have pushed the groups underground.
However, to expand testing and treatment, Egypt
launched anonymous testing in 2004 and since 2005 has
provided anti-HIV drugs free of charge. (Reuters)