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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Involving Religious Leaders in HIV/AIDS Prevention

Author(s): DK Pal, PK Kasar, R Tiwari, A Sharma

Vol. 32, No. 1 (2007-01 - 2007-03)

The religious leaders have a unique power within them because people have faith and trust in them and whatever they say is carefully listened and followed1. In many parts of the world viz Uganda, Ethiopia, Thailand and Malaysia, successful efforts were made to involve religious leaders in prevention of HIV/AIDS2. In Ethopia, religious leaders organize regular discourses during the prayer session and make the community aware about HIV/AIDS and its prevention4. Buddhist monks in Mankong religion are helping to change attitude of people about HIV/AIDS3. The present study is undertaken to find out the feasibility of involving religious leaders in our socio-cultural setup.

This study was undertaken in Narsinghpur district of Madhya Pradesh. From the list of religious leaders having high credibility and large no. of followers ten were selected by random technique. Among these six were Hindus, one Muslim, one Christian, one Jain and one Sikh religious leader. A motivational team was developed which also included some of the local influential persons to motivate the religious leaders to include HIV/AIDS related messages in their religious discourses. Religious leaders were provided with some salient features of HIV/AIDS in local language, prepared by the research team.

A video/audio recording of the discourse was done to know the content and duration during which the message was conveyed to the followers. After each discourse, exit interviews of the followers were conducted on pre designed semi-structured schedules.

Out of ten, nine religious leaders could be motivated. Jain religious leader refused to incorporate HIV/AIDS related messages during its religious discourses. The other 9(90%) religious leaders were not only convinced but they were quite enthusiastic to talk about such issues, which is a very positive sign towards involvement of religious leaders for issues of public health importance like HIV/AIDS.

Single sex partner as a preventive measure was said to be a preventive measure by majority (83.67%) of the followers in exit interviews. Though use of condom was not addressed by any of the religious leaders, 60% of the followers were aware of it.

Table 1: Preventive measures addressed by religious leaders as revealed by exit interviews

Preventive Measures Number Percentage
One Partner 287 83.67
Safe Injection 157 45.77
Safe Sex (Condom) 209 60.93
Safe Blood Transfusion 119 34.69
‘Dharam-Palan’ 29 8.45
Non 32 9.33

Two religious leaders, though convinced initially, did not say anything about HIV/AIDS during their religious discourse. There is a need to develop acceptable ways to address in the religious discourses, the importance of condom in STDs/HIV.

There is so much of civil unrest, wars, terrorism all over the world largely due to religious beliefs (or disbeliefs). There is a need to use this power of religion as a tool for the betterment of mankind therefore also for halting the HIV pandemic. Therefore religious leaders should be involved in creating awareness about HIV/AIDS, its consequences and preventive measures on a much larger scale.

References

  1. Declaration of commitment on HIV/AIDS; “Crisis-Global Action” (UN general assembly-special session on HIV/AIDS), 25-27, 2002.
  2. Best practice summary Booklet-Madarsa AIDS education and prevention project, Uganda. Islamic medical association of Uganda. http:\\www.imauganda.org.
  3. ‘Where is the voice of the church?’ AIDS/ASIA regional rounds up. July-Aug 2002, pg: 1-25.
  4. ‘Creating dialogue with listeners’ AIDS-Action. Issue 50-51. January-June 2001, page: 1-29.

DK Pal, PK Kasar, R Tiwari, A Sharma
Department of Community Medicine,
N.S.C.B. Medical College, Jabalpur, (M.P.)
E-mail: [email protected]
Received: 23.05.06

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