- Muslim clerics from 25 African countries failed to reach consensus on the use of condoms in preventing HIV/AIDS at a recent meeting on the semi-autonomous Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.
The Network of African Islamic Faith-based Organisations met in November to discuss issues that included HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence, but could not to agree on a unified HIV/AIDS strategy.
When the network was launched in March 2005, in Abuja, Nigeria, the religious leaders stated in their declaration: "We support all appropriate methods of preventing HIV/AIDS. These include abstinence, being faithful and, when absolutely necessary, correct and consistent use of the condom between couples."
Nevertheless, many clerics at the meeting rejected the use of condoms on the grounds that they promoted promiscuity, particularly among the youth. "The majority still sticks to 'no promoting condoms', and believe in abstinence and being faithful as preventive measures - condoms can only be used by HIV-positive couples," said Zanzibar's Dr Issa Ziddy, deputy secretary of the network.
Other participants felt the organisation needed to make a clear statement in favour of condom use in the fight against HIV/AIDS. "I think it is high time we define the preventive measures. Let us strengthen advocacy in abstinence [A] and being faithful [B], but also promote the use of condoms [C] for those who fail to stick to A and B," said Ebyan Salah, a Gender Advisor to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. "Every tool must be used, including promoting condoms," she said.
Despite the long political crisis in Somalia and current efforts to build a government, many people in the country were aware of HIV/AIDS. Activists, including Muslim leaders, spoke openly about the pandemic, but promoting condom use remained largely taboo, and they were difficult to find on the market, Ms Salah said.
Dr Hamid Suleiman, of the Zanzibar AIDS Commission, told delegates that condom use was not encouraged by the island's clerics either and they were not directly involved in the campaign against HIV/AIDS until 2002.
At the 2005 Abuja summit, Muslim religious leaders from Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania, among others, agreed that they should disseminate information on HIV/AIDS in sermons and at religious events.
"Fortunately, for the last three years Muslim leaders in Zanzibar have helped a lot in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS," Dr Suleiman said. "Since the majority population are Muslims, the message can spread well," he added.
Zanzibar's still relatively low HIV prevalence has by now reached 0.9 percent, but in 2002 it was estimated at just 0.6 percent. Health workers on the island say lack of information and worrying trends like increased injecting drug use could see the island's problem continue to grow unless urgent action is taken.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.