Volume 8, Number 2 (8-1994)                   Med J Islam Repub Iran 1994 | Back to browse issues page


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THE ROLE OF RELIGION AND ETHICS IN THE PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF AIDS. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 1994; 8 (2) :115-119
URL: http://mjiri.iums.ac.ir/article-1-1389-en.html

Abstract:   (2087 Views)
Itis unlikely that mankind has ever faced an epidemic as dangerous as the one we have come to call the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS, for short. Certainly, humanity has never given so much attention to or shown so much fear of a disease as it does with AIDS. AIDS is a terminal disease for which doctors have no effective cure as yet. Infection is predominantly through sexual intercourse performed under certain circumstances or in certain ways. Apart from this, no one knows when it first afflicted humans, nor can anybody predict, let alone claim to know, what will befall the human race as a result of its spread over the coming years. The mystery surrounding this disease is made much more complicated by the fact that, years after it was fust discovered, it became clear that its infection had been widespread in many countries before the disease was even detected by scientists and before the fust AIDS case was diagnosed in 1981. Scientific sources concerned with monitoring the spread of AIDS point out that by the year 2000, the number of cases is likely to reach 40 million, of which 30 million will be among adults and the rest among children. The same sources say that if the spread of AIDS continues unchecked, with no effective and accessible cure becoming available to those infected, the number of cases is likely to reach uncontrollable proportions. The present situation is no better than that which is being predicted for the future. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that between 300,000 and 500,000 people will suffer symptoms of AIDS every year, i.e., between 1,000 and 1,400 cases a day.' All this no doubt justifies the horror expressed by the concerned agencies and institutions, as well as by ordinary people. It also justifies the interest shown by various specialist bodies, headed by WHO, in providing information, advice and knowledge with regard to prevention methods against this very serious disease. With scientific and medical efforts still unable to find a vaccine or a cure that would protect people against the AIDS epidemic and its horrors, the only way to combat the disease is through prevention, slaving off the evil before it strikes and keeping away from the sources of danger. Nothing can be more helpful in this preventive effort than religious teachings and the adoption of proper and decent behaviour, as advocated and urged by all divine religions. The World Health Organization, and the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office in particular, have conducted some experiments in this field. In the health programmes carried out in collaboration with Member States, it has taken account of indigenous traditions and cultures that are basically built on religious beliefs. The effect has been tremendous, as can clearly be seen in encouraging public reponse to these programmes. Accordingly, WHO's Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office took the initiative to organize a Regional Consultation on the Role of Religion and Ethics in the field of the prevention and control of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases to which a select group of experts in the fields of religion and medicine have been invited. The Consultation was held on 9 and 10 September 1991, at the Eastern Regional Director and a larger number of directors and advisers at the Regional Office. It was also attended by ten prominent legal and religious scholars, both Muslim and Christian (See Annex II). A number of papers were submitted and distributed for study and consultation. As a result, several recommendations and conclusions were formulated (Annex I). These dealt with the importance of religion and its role in the field of prevention of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. They also highlighted the role of religious establishments and the media, the rights of victims and those who come in contact with them, the effect of prevention and diagnosis procedures on human rights, early marriage, the laws dealing with patients and infected persons, and doctors' duties. The aim of this booklet is to introduce the role of religion and ethics in the prevention and control of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and to convey a strong and direct message of warning about the risks and side effects of misbehaviour. It also urges people to observe religious teachings and cherish moral and ethical values that prevent individuals from getting involved in risky relationships. Furthermore, it aims to encourage them to develop the necessary self-control to prevent them from such dangerous practices, whose risks for human life as a whole are not yet fully understood. It has "become very clear that the factors and conditions leading to infection by AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases can be avoided if people adopt proper and decent patterns of behaviour, and if they adhere to the fundamental teachings of religion and the moral ethos based on them, which have become the central component of the unique culture of the people of this Region, and their inherited traditions" .42 Finally, the Regional Office is pleased to present the reader with two documents on this subject the fust one is the full text of the recommendations of the Regional Consultation on the Role of Religion and Ethics in the Prevention and Control of AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Alexandria, September 1991), and the second is "Health Promotion through Islamic Lifestyles: the Amman Declaration" (June 1989, and the reference document attached to it.) These two documents, which we hope will help readers learn more on the subject of the present booklet, are included in issue number 5 of the Health Education through Religion series.
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