Faiths Agree On Strategy to Fight Aids

Religious leaders meeting in Nairobi agreed on a common strategy to combat the spread of Aids.

They, however, did not reach a compromise with Catholics on the use of condoms.

Sheikh al Haji Yusuf Murigu of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims said condoms were acceptable only in marriage where the partners used them to protect each other against cross-infection.

Catholic Archbishop John Onaiyekan said a conference was not the venue to change the church stand and repeated the position that condoms were not acceptable to Catholics.

Other leaders said they opposed the availability of free condoms to unmarried people. They advised couples intending to marry to go for HIV/Aids tests.

Mr Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy on HIV/Aids in Africa, differed with the leaders saying condoms should be made available to stop the spread of the virus even among the unmarried because many people could not remain celibate. Abstinence was, however, the surest way of avoiding contracting the virus, he said.

Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Bahai and indigenous religious leaders took a radical stance on loan repayments to the World Bank, IMF and the G8 countries.

They advised governments to stop repaying the loans and use the money to fight the Aids scourge.

They acknowledged that they had not done enough to stem the spread of HIV/Aids despite having the largest grassroots following.

The four-day meeting rejected the stigmatisation of people who are either infected or affected by the scourge.

A Declaration of Action issued after the conference called on religious leaders to re-examine their traditions to allow believers to fight the disease in ways respectful to their consciences.

The faiths said they would work together to come up with programmes that address issues affecting people living with Aids as well how the society treated them. The leaders from Africa were attending the first African Religious Leaders Assembly on HIV/Aids and Children at a Nairobi hotel.

"We must recognise that Aids is going to have a greater impact than slavery and colonisation. Let's face it, eight per cent of the world's population is carrying 90 per cent of the Aids burden," said Ms Nazliin Omar from the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.