Africa Asia Middle East Français Português Subscribe IRIN Site Map
Global HIV/AIDS news and analysis
Advanced search
 Wednesday 03 October 2007
Weekly reports 
In-Depth reports 
Country profiles 
Fact files 
Really Simple Syndication Feeds 
About PlusNews 
Contact PlusNews 
Print report
NIGERIA: Muslim groups join the struggle

Photo: IRIN
"AIDS doesn't show on a person's face" - a billboard in Hausa in northern Nigeria
LAGOS, 15 August 2007 (PlusNews) - Every weekend groups of Muslim women belonging to Al' Muminat (The Believing Women) meet in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, and along with discussing spiritual matters, tackle the very secular issue of AIDS.

The Social Advocacy Projects (SAP) arm of Al' Muminat introduced the talks a number of years ago, and now organises anti-AIDS campaigns targeted at the Muslim community.

"Women are more vulnerable to the disease, even more so because illiteracy thrives among Muslim women," SAP's National Coordinator, Sherifah Yusuf-Ajibade, told IRIN/Plusnews.

"Some of our Muslim brethren still believe that HIV/AIDS does not exist and those that believe have the wrong notion that local herbs can cure it. We have been showing them real life cases and videos clips so we can make them realise that AIDS is real."

Religious objections

Muslims constitute slightly more than half of Nigeria's population of 140 million, but while Christian groups have long been involved in anti-AIDS efforts, Muslims have been slower to join the fight.

Religious objections to the use of condoms and a reluctance to accept anything perceived as conveying "western values" have dogged efforts to win the support of Muslim communities for anti-AIDS campaigns, according to Dr Ishaq Lakin-Akintola, Coordinator of Muslims Against AIDS (MAIDS).

But following reports that several predominantly Muslim states in the north and south of the country have HIV prevalence rates of between 5 and 6 percent, significantly higher than the national average of 4.4 percent, a growing number of Islamic faith-based organisations are reaching out to Nigeria's Muslims with education about HIV/AIDS.

MAIDS promotes what it calls "Islamic-compliant" HIV prevention methods to improve the chances of acceptance by Muslims. Rather than distributing condoms, for example, they advocate sexual faithfulness among couples and abstinence from sex for unmarried people. The group also promotes the wearing of the hijab (a long scarf covering the hair and outer garments) by Muslim women in the belief it reduces sexual promiscuity.

''More people have come for testing and are now living positively with lower levels of stigma and discrimination than before''
Meanwhile, the Al Mu'minat women's group has been running AIDS awareness programmes in mosques and schools to combat the high levels of ignorance about the disease. The group also organises rallies to protest against discrimination of people living with HIV.

Another group Muslim Action Guide Against AIDS, Poverty, Illiteracy and Conflicts (MAGA-APIC) trains Muslim youths to become peer educators and has developed a training manual for Islamic scholars with the theme "Its great to wait" that promotes HIV prevention through abstinence.

As a result of its activities and those of other faith-based groups, Mallam Abdusalam Adetokunbo, MAGA's national coordinator, believes that Muslims have become more receptive to HIV/AIDS campaigns. "More people have come for testing and are now living positively with lower levels of stigma and discrimination than before," he noted.

Still battling stigma

Ibrahim Umoru, a Muslim AIDS activist, conceded that the work of Islamic faith-based groups had resulted in some improvements in the levels of stigma against people living with HIV and AIDS but said that much work remained to be done. He advocated a more proactive approach by Muslim leaders. "Some of the Ulamas [Islamic leaders] indulge in a 'holier than thou' attitude and still encourage the belief that people get infected due to promiscuity, which is not the case as we all know," he said.

After the failure of Umoru's first marriage due to his HIV-positive status, he said he struggled to find a second wife who would accept his activism and his openness about being positive. Eventually he married a Christian woman.

"I know of other positive Muslims, but whenever they go back to their communities they are not too open [about their status] because of the high level of stigma that still exists," Umoru said.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Care/Treatment - PlusNews, (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), (IRIN) PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Print report
FREE Subscriptions
Your e-mail address:

Submit your request
 More on Nigeria
NIGERIA: Treatment scale-up urgently needed
NIGERIA: College slammed for HIV testing
GLOBAL: US company sues American Red Cross over use of Red Cross emblem
IRIN: Today's most popular IRIN articles
NIGERIA: Supporting discordant couples to stay together
 More on Care/Treatment - PlusNews
ZIMBABWE: Bulawayo's water crisis cripples AIDS efforts
INDONESIA: Injecting more than drugs
GLOBAL: UNAIDS counts the cost of universal access
MOZAMBIQUE: Businesses invest in AIDS fight
NIGERIA: Treatment scale-up urgently needed
Back | Home page

Services:  Africa | Asia | Middle East | Radio | Film & TV | Photo | E-mail subscription
Feedback · E-mail Webmaster · IRIN Terms & Conditions · Really Simple Syndication News Feeds · About PlusNews · Bookmark PlusNews · Donors

Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.