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Saturday, December 02, 2006

AIDS: Islamic Viewpoint

All people at one point or another in their lives become ill and experience the discomfort of disease. Whether it is a flu or something worse, nobody enjoys it. Chronic diseases, in particular, distress people. The need to continuously take medication and the feeling that there might be no cure can be a difficult test from Allah.

HIV/AIDS is one of the most henious diseases present today. One of the problems with AIDS, besides its effect on the health, is its impact on the social life of the patient. A main source of grievence is due to the lack of awareness about how the HIV virus is transmitted.

It is some people's belief that contracting HIV/AIDS is a punishment from God for their sins. Due to the gross misconception that the only way to become infected is through illicit drug use, male-to-male sex, pre-marital sex or polygamous relationships, some believe it is the wrath of Allah that has befallen them. Although in some cases this may be true, there are several cases where people have been infected unknowingly without undergoing any risky behavior.

The verse 133 of Surat Al-A'raaf indicates that Allah Almighty has punished tribes for their sins.

"So We sent (plagues) on them: wholesale death, locusts, lice, frogs, and blood: Signs openly self-explained: but they were steeped in arrogance, - a people given to sin."

At the same time, as mentioned in an IslamOnline.net fatwa, "Suffering can also be a test and trial for some people. Allah allows some people to suffer in order to test their patience and steadfastness."

`A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: I asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) about pestilence and he said, "It is a punishment which Allah sends upon whomsoever He wills, but Allah has made it as a mercy to the believers. Anyone who remains in a town which is plagued with pestilence maintaining patience expecting the reward from Allah, and knowing that nothing will befall him other than what Allah has foreordained for him, he would receive a reward of Shaheed (martyr)." [Al-Bukhari].

Muslims also see illness and disease as a means of redemption for their sins. Abu Said and Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with them) reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said: "Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate his sins on account of his patience." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

To learn more about the Islamic viewpoint on AIDS-related issues, read:

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

As the popular proverb goes, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." It may not keep the doctor away with this particular disease, but the idea is to seek preventive measures when ever possible.

Although religion solaces those who have contracted diseases, Islam strongly encourages us to protect ourselves as much as we can.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said ". and one who bewares of evil will be guarded against it" (reported by Al-Khateb on the authority of Abu Hurayrah). So people who are cautious not to put themselves at risk are protected by Allah from danger.

Also, Allah Almighty says: "and be not cast by your own hands to ruin" (1:195). Our bodies and health are our responsibilities. As best as we can, we must protect ourselves whenever possible.

Prevention is easier than treating and curing the disease. HIV/AIDS is more complicated than other infectious diseases in that there is still no cure or available vaccine to prevent infection. The treatment that is present is given to slow the damage the virus does to the immune system delaying the emergence of the full-blown AIDS. The treatment also consists of medicines that prevent or control opportunistic infections which occur due to the weakening of the person's immune system. The problem with the present treatment is that it is very expensive and not available to all people. Many developing countries do not have these medicines because they are not manufactured nationally and they are too expensive to import. According to a report by the World Health Organization, "currently, only 300,000 people in developing countries receive antiretroviral medicines. In Africa , less than 50,000 people have access to antiretroviral medicines."

As other viruses, the HIV virus mutates constantly, so if the patient misses a dose, there is a chance that they may become immune to the drugs they are taking which can decrease future treatment options.

The main step to protecting yourself from getting infected is awareness. Whether you are infected or not it is crucial to know about HIV/AIDS.

The idea of securing our lifestyles by not engaging in risky behavior may well slowdown the fast spread of HIV/AIDS. By knowing the methods of transmission, people can stay well away of any risky sources of infection.

Some suggestions include abstinence till marriage whereas others suggest harm reduction methods.

Islamic Workable Measures to Overcome AIDS

This is a fatwa providing some workable measures to overcome infection with the HIV virus.

India - Preventing HIV/AIDS in India

This is an article from worldbank.org giving an outline of the HIV/AIDS situation in India as well as suggestions of priority areas such as increasing condom use and fighting stigma and discrimination as one of the obstacles that decrease prevention effectiveness. The low awareness in rural areas is also blamed as one of the main obstacles in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Abstinence, Not Condoms Is Best Defense Against HIV/Aids - AllAfrica.com - 19 Nov 2004

Other sources do not see condom use as a viable method of prevention. Abstinence till marriage is seen as a credible way for protection and safety. It is suggested that everyone know their HIV status before marriage irrespective if positive or negative; the idea is to prevent the spread of the virus unknowingly between married couples.

Preventing HIV/AIDS in schools - UNESCO

This is a comprehensive document illustrating how prevention should begin in schools. It is directed at training the educators on how to teach students about AIDS and prevention. Some of the suggestions for prevention dealing with sexuality were

a.. Abstinence from sexual intercourse

b.. Delaying sexual 'debut' as long as possible

c.. Monogamy with an uninfected partner

d.. Non-penetrative sex

e.. Condom use

Other suggestions related to drug abuse:

a.. Abstinence from substance use

b.. Abstinence from sexual intercourse

c.. Non-sharing of intravenous needles

d.. Thorough sterilization and one-time use of needles

Harm Reduction Approaches to Injecting Drug Use

Another approach is harm reduction. This concept is aimed at reducing negative health consequences associated with certain behaviors. The highest risk groups in this case are drug users, HIV prevalence among injecting drug users can reach levels up to 40% or more within 1 or 2 years of introduction of the virus in their communities. One method is ensuring that needles are not re-used or shared where as another alternative is switching to non-needle or non-injection drugs when complete abstinence from drug use is not possible.

Mother-to-Child Transmission Backgrounder

This discusses the vertical transmission of AIDS from mother to child, either through pregnancy or breastfeeding. The challenge is to spread awareness and to eliminate the stigma towards AIDS in order to make it easier for people that wish to know their HIV status to test and receive treatment.

Sexual Purity

Abstinence seems to be growing into a popular movement worldwide. Besides calling for abstinence to prevent STDs, this site is encouraging abstinence till marriage for several other reasons. This is a Christian website.

The Forgotten Virtue

As for the site above, this site deals with the issue of abstinence by giving excerpts of a book discussing this topic.

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