Presented by Dr. Malik S. Khan Sec-Gen
Representing Ejaz-ul-Quran and Hadith Al-Ilmi Foundation of Islam
World Council of Muslim Communities (a UN-affiliated organization)
and the world’s Islamic peace movements, Grand Muftis, eminent scholars, teachers, and imams.
This presentation has been approved by:
H.E. Dr. Abdullah bin Omar Nasseef, President of World Muslim Congress, International Council of Da`wah and Irshad,
and World Council of Muslim Communities
H.E. Raja Zafarul Haq, Secretary-General of World Muslim Congress
. May 16th is World AIDS Day
Indeed the epidemic is a new calamity befalling the human population. Naturally, it is not present in all individuals, and those diagnosed with HIV who receive prompt treatment may never develop full-blown AIDS. The proportion of those infected whose condition progresses from HIV to AIDS has therefore varied widely from community to community. After remaining dormant for months or years, the virus goes into the bloodstream and depletes the body’s nutriments, hormones, and ability to resist diseases. Once AIDS has been diagnosed, with the depleted immune system susceptible to a variety of infectious agents, the condition is generally fatal, the patient dying of infectious agents or excessive weight loss due to reduced ability to extract the nutrition from food.
The scare stories regarding transmission that abounded when AIDS was new on the world scene have been disproved, so that most people are now aware that AIDS is not spread by casual contact such as sneezing, hugging, or toilet seats. The danger of transmission of the affliction from the affected individuals to the unaffected ones comes through interjection of bodily fluid, chiefly semen or blood. Accordingly, one of the major methods of transmission is sexual contact. Unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners greatly increases the risk of contracting the disease and further spreading it. The innocent victim is the partner, who committed no sin, but suffers because the other has brought it home. The main risk groups in this category are homosexual or bisexual men and heterosexual contacts of infected persons, as well as children of tainted women. The other debased means is the transfusion of blood. Though blood for transfusions is now routinely screened for HIV, contaminated blood passes the infection to the recipient in the high-risk group of drug addicts who share needles.
Some of the common symptoms of AIDS are: depression, blisters, skin problems, dry cough, lymph node swelling, cold sweats in the night, diarrhea, and unusual infections. The symptom most directly responsible for death by AIDS is weight loss, which may be as severe as 10kg in a week. When the human body has wasted to 55% of its normal weight for whatever reason, the body dies.
The AIDS victims suffer not only for the disease; they also suffer socially and become the untouchables in the communities. Nobody wants to live with them or wants them to live in their neighborhood. The family members of those who are diagnosed with AIDS or who have died from it are discriminated against, and this stigma makes people suffer all the more. This, paradoxically, contributes to the spread of AIDS by encouraging a mentality where a person would potentially endanger the life of a new or second sexual partner rather than undergo HIV testing with its perceived risk of losing one’s job or being outcast by one’s family and community upon testing positive.
By far, the permissive, perverted, and promiscuous societies are the breeding grounds of these vices. Sensualism, alcoholism, intoxication, gambling, drug abuse, homosexuality, promiscuity, prostitution, sodomy, and provocative or unnatural indulgences directly or indirectly lead to the HIV/AIDS track. Moreover, as any addition affects the body, brain, and social relations, impairing the subject’s biological, intellectual, psychological, and social defenses, these impulses are carried over to his offspring, thereby further intensifying the dangers of the epidemic.
Yet some people eagerly advocate legalization of those virulences, either in the name of freedom or in the guise of socialization, often attracting the children or youth to them. Once on such a collision course, disaster is eventually the outcome, with no point of return.
Then to ignite these tendencies yonder, the media and business play equally destructive roles. Alluring and exciting imagery has become the leitmotif of communication and advertising. To begin with, there are presently 400,000 sex websites, visited by sixty million viewers daily. In broadcasting events or introducing products, intoxicants (tobacco, alcohol), pleasure (pulsating music, throbbing dance), and voluptuosity (premature indulgences, premarital sex) are projected as manly and macho manifestations. Promoted as good-time experiences and considered as attributes of a free society, appearing as glamorous and sociable, they are taken as harmless fun and zestful amusement. Thus, in the absence of prohibition or social disapproval, it is common for people to become enslaved to lower desires and become alcoholics, compulsive gamblers, adulterers, drug addicts or abusers of other substances. Indeed, it is a shameful illusion.
Today throughout the modern world how easily available to minors tobacco, alcohol, and drug paraphernalia are! People who give over their minds to alcohol and mind-altering drugs can easily become victims of AIDS.
This presents a horrifying specter of capricious behavior toward life and in particular toward sexual attitudes. A grave situation prevails especially in Sub-Saharan and West Africa, where more than 75 percent of youth are sexually active. In the United States, many youth have had several sexual partners before even graduating from high school. The shocking news also tells us that new strains of diseases are not combatable by antibiotics.
As a result, the number of people afflicted with HIV continues to rise in all parts of the world. In 2007, according to statistics published by UNAIDS and WHO, 33.2 million affectees were living with the virus, which included 30.8 million adults, of whom 15.4 million were women, and 2.5 million children. In sub-Saharan Africa, 6.2% of all adults aged 15-49 are infected with HIV. In China, though the overall incidence is only one-tenth of one percent, certain communities have a prevalence of up to 60% Over 1,600,000 people are languishing with HIV in Latin American. 32,000 people are dying every day, and 16,000 new cases arise every day. This is more or less close and reasonable statistics.
There is a wide diversity in prevalence of affliction among regions and countries. In Botswana, the worst affected country in the world, the ascendancy is 24.1 percent of the adult populace. The next highest concentration is in the Caribbean, where 230,000 people are estimated to be living with HIV or AIDS. Steep increases have also been observed in some Asian and East European nations. In the more developed regions, the regnancy is lower, with 2006 percentages of .0013% in Australia, .0014% in UK, .0010 in Canada, and .0139 in the United States.
The number of deaths caused by AIDS has mounted steadily over the years. More than 25 million people have expired since the disease was first diagnosed in 1981. There were about 2.43 million deaths due to AIDS in 2007, including more than 2 million in Africa, 58,000 in Latin America, 11,000 in the Caribbean, and roughly 163,000 in Europe. However, all of these figures suffer from underreporting due to wrong methodology used by taking a random sample and generalizing over the entire country.
The number of children orphaned by the disease is estimated at 15 million, Africa being the most affected continent, 12 million souls having lost one or both parents. There are an additional 3 million orphans in other parts of the globe. On the whole, it is predicted that by the year 2010, the volume of AIDS orphans could swell to more than 18 million. Most of them grow up in poverty, faced with increased risk of violence and exposed to bitter exploitation and abuse.
Response to this crisis has equally been widespread, on both the national and international level, and for both prevention and cure. Nationally, governmental initiatives have been characterized by comprehensive policies and programs in many countries. Forthright national leadership, combined with public awareness and intensive prevention efforts, has resulted in some notable successes. Concern over HIV/AIDS has ranked high on the population policy agenda of most countries. Governments are pursuing multi-pronged strategies to combat the problem, in partnership with and succor of civil society, focusing on:
1. legislation (non-discrimination, non-stigmatization)
2. policy (aggressive promotion)
3. execution (effective implementation)
4. education (public awareness, information, publicity)
5. communication (public relations, confidence-building, assistance)
6. prevention (counseling, testing, condom use, blood screening, modification of sexual behavior); and
7. treatment (antiretroviral facilities). and
8. institutionalization (networking, support groups, coordinating linkages, organizational provisions). Religious institutions and education, inculcating fear of sin and Hellfire, remain the best tool for the prevention of the most common behaviors that spread HIV/AIDS.
While these exertions have frequently been fragmented and narrow, they have, over time, been strengthened, promising better services in the coming days. In particular, whereas antiretroviral remedy has significantly prolonged life by thwarting the development of HIV into full-blown AIDS, access thereto has remained low owing chiefly to high costs.
Internationally, too, the epidemic has prompted an unprecedented array of global, regional, national, and local responses. Beginning in 1994, the Economic and Social Council has, inter alia, established the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to launch and support a coordinated action from the United Nations system as a whole. The urgency of concerted schemata was publicized by the United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000), which noted the resolve of the Members to halt and reverse the spread of the epidemic by the year 2015. This was reiterated in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS adopted by the General Assembly (2001), which acknowledged the preventive measures as the mainstays to meet the challenges posed. Additional resources were being brought to bear by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, among other things, created by the General Assembly (2002). Further, in view of the devastating toll of the epidemic in Africa, the UN Secretary General established the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (2003) to make recommendations for eradicating the menace. Most recently, the High-level Meeting to review the achievement of the goals set out in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS (2005) afforded an opportunity for the international community to take stock of its efforts to counter the disease. The Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, along with its other allied activities, monitors trends and policies related to HIV/AIDS and provides throughout the world up-to-date, accurate and scientifically objective information thereon. Also, as a constant reminder, May 16th has been recognized as the International Day of HIV/AIDS. This helps promote the cause of alleviating the suffering.
However, while there have been many examples of success and progress, they have essentially represented stop-gap solutions. Indeed, the global response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic having fallen short of what is required, the dilemma of adequately tackling the problem still remains. On the contrary, certain artificial means assumed in desperation (e.g. indiscriminate use of condoms) and in spite of their apparent benefits (e.g., avoidance of chance pregnancy) have had long-term detrimental consequences by encouragement of irresponsible behavior and degenerating the society (e.g., prevalence of adultery, which has its own ill effects). Eventually, such practices increase rather than decrease the spread of the epidemic.
The reason has been the fundamental deficiency of the theories and policies adopted which, dwelling heavily on secular ingredients, lack the necessary spiritual contents that are the essence of straight society. As all religions place prohibition on harmful conduct, it is religion and moral factors that motivate individuals to follow a righteous course away from vices, avoiding personal or social injury to anybody, including themselves. Consequently, despite all efforts otherwise, ignorance and rejection of the Divine Message will lead to perpetual damnation. All the revealed religions (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, Islam) lay down clearly in their respective scriptures (the Torah, Bible, Qur’an) the paths of pious life and graceful existence, providing guidance and showing signs, so aw to ensure rewards here and hereafter. Simultaneously, they enjoin to stay away from dereliction and not to go astray, warning against the chastisement that lies ahead for sinful and disobedient conduct. Keeping with human dignity, they prescribe commendable deeds (e.g. truth-telling, honesty, compassion, tolerance, respect, kindness, cleanliness, piety, sobriety) and enjoin to abhor detestable misdeeds (e.g., lying, theft, killing, intoxication, adultery, gambling, fornication, homosexuality, slavery). Moreover, abuse of human body, misuse of wealth, wastage of resources, and worship of the unworthy are forbidden. Islam has on its part laid a great stress on pious bearing. Making the Divine Dictates as the bases of creation, sustenance, and existence, it has ordained an upright pathway. Walking on it promises all the bounties of health, prosperity, and happiness, while deviation therefrom eventuates to disease, misery, and sorrow. As such, it has allowed only lawful living, eating, drinking, and behaving. At the same time it has prohibited leading a flagitious life, consumption of harmful substances, and displaying of culpable demeanor, which paralyze body, mind, and spirit. In short, only in Godly way the beneficial and beautiful activities are sanctioned, while abusive and destructive indulgences are estopped. Indeed, where and when Islamic ideology prevailed the society trod on a healthy and happy trail free from thorny and painful gait.
Surely, were humans following the righteous course so explicitly provided by the Almighty through His apostles and avoiding the evils urges in their lives, they should have not fallen into such a calamitous pit as HIV/AIDS. While its scourge is still raging, being in a blind alley, they are behaving as helpless spectators.
Recourse for them, therefore, is to offer their sincere repentance on past fallacies, straighten their crooked ways, and assume the Divinely prescribed style of life. For this, they ought to follow the Holy Injunctions as revealed through God’s messengers. Humanity will be salvaged from the abysmal depths into which it has descended only through subservience and obedience to the decrees of the Almighty (Who alone is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, in the Owner and provider of everything, is All-Knowing and All-Powerful, and Who alone is worthy of praise and worship). Those who seek Him will find Him with His Grace and Guidance to establish lasting peace, bliss, and abundance.
Now, this is the duty of the utmost urgency falling upon all the religionists and specially the adherents of the three Abrahamic faiths (viz. Jews, Christians, Muslims) to commit themselves to work together as a team in finding answers to prevent, cure, eradicate, and safeguard against the epidemic. For this to achieve desirable results, systematic and sustained efforts shall be necessary. Faith-based groups, toiling in unison in a coordinated fashion, will be able to bring about a spruce environment. In such a regimen, religio-moral values will prevail in the lives of the people, controlling, inter alia, their physicao-material necessities. While love of God and loyalty to His commandments shall promote this balance, His fear and wrath will guard them agaist their bungling into lustful traps. With spiritual elements as adduced, the society will be both celestially hale and corporeally hardy, self-regulating when the equilibrium is tilted. So revitalized and invigorated, neither evil onslaughts will destroy its élan nor malignant threats shall ruin its substance, while projecting itself as a sound enterprise.
In this connection, three coordinated programs with different foci shall be simultaneously launched. The first, short-term, will emphasize on the care and treatment (including spiritual treatment) of those already infected by HIV/AIDS. Appropriate legislation and policies with adequate means of their implementation shall be advanced to provide the victims socio-emotional relief. Further, in the same vein, support and comfort groups will be established in each affected community. Possibilities of antiretroviral facilities shall likewise be expanded as much as possible. Research and trial of other medicines for the alleviation and cure of the disease shall equally be encouraged in the same spirit.
The second, medium-term, program will initiate a concerted preventive campaign. Through education, publicity, and information, the public shall be made aware of the horrors of the epidemic and urged to follow the physico-morally sanctioned conduct (i.e., respect for human body, consumption of clean foods, indulgence in licit sexual relationship only) and avoidance of profane activities (e.g., drug abuse, gambling, fornication, prostitution, adultery). For these purposes, provisions or necessary public relations, information, publicity, literature, discussion, and counseling shall be stressed. Facilities for safe medical practices (e.g., blood scanning, sterile equipment) shall be broadly disseminated. Similarly, adherence to cautious sexual contacts (e.g., medication, condom use) shall be urged, particularly in lawful sexual relationships as necessary.
The third, long-term, program shall focus on the reform of the social environment on spiritual grounds. Interfaith congregations from all communities and creeds will join hands in a meaningful way and cooperative order, sharing their concern and resources, to cleanse the society of vices that have led and have the potential of leading to HIV/AIDS along with others. Through their mutuality and sincerity, a vigorous social movement would be mounted, which could bring solace and salvation to the aching earth. The evils underlying the epidemic thus fought out, giving birth to an upright community, this will ensure prevalence of a really peaceful and prosperous destiny for mankind.
Then and only then, humanity may consider itself safe from the plight of HIV/AIDS and safeguarded against future outbreaks.