Malawian Muslims who were reluctant to have their blood tested for HIV due to mere perceptions about the councilors being non Muslims, will have to rethink their excuse when the first Muslim run VCT services get established in the Country.
This was disclosed to Malawi Muslim Official Website in the sidelines of a day-long Muslim Youth workshop which was organized by Muslim Sisters Aids Network (MUSANET) at Al-Barakah’s Kameza Training Centre in Blantyre on Sunday.
When asked about the organisation’s future projects, chair lady Sister Jameela Lire pointed out that they intend to open a Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) centre to enable Muslims go for HIV testing and get counseling services.
“Inshaallah, we have a lot of plans. Already, we have started a loan scheme, and then we would like to have our own VCT’s as Musanet. We have a lot of programmes that we are looking forward to embark on as an organization.” she said. Sister Lire observed that some Muslims do not go for VCT because they have attitude problems; hence the need to have our own VCT centres as Muslims.
“I believe that once the centres come operational, we shall register high numbers of Muslim patrons. I think people know what Musanet is all about and they have confidence in us. They know we are there to help, so I don’t think there will be any misconceptions. We hope they will take pride in the services knowing that they are run by a Muslim organization, and the only way of doing that will be by patronizing the VCT’s. We find it necessary because some Muslims just have negative attitude with these other VCT’s. Perhaps it’s high time we established our own VCT’s. Our only worry is that men are more reluctant in this regard. However, with the good cooperation that exists between us (Musanet) and our understanding women, we hope that as wives, they will convince their husbands too.”
The free- speaking lady also noted that easy access to VCT’s still remains problematic to most Malawians. “We need to complement what others are doing so that more and more people know their HIV status for better planning of their lives and families. We hope that people would be freer to talk about themselves and receive counseling as Muslims. We are brethren and we know how we can handle each other better” said Lire.
There were about 100 participants from various Muslim Youth groups in Blantyre who attended the workshop.
According to publicity Secretary for Musanet, Sister Rehematu Chimbende, the aim of the function was to sensitise the youth on the dangers of HIV/AIDS which she said is claiming lives of Muslims, some of whom would be influential and helpful to the development of Islam and the country.
“We are urging the Muslim community to be pro-active and work together so that we can curb this deadly pandemic. AIDS is real and it retardates development here in town and in the villages. These youth are our future. The future of Islam and Malawi. Their health is crucial to the growth of our deen and our nation.” Lamented Chimbende.
She bemoaned the attitude and tendency of some youth who think that they are immune just because they are circumcised. “Circumcision is not a guarantee that you cannot catch the virus. Others just rush to using condoms. This is un-islamic. Allah SWT warns us not to come any closer to adultery. It is a sin. And that’s the message they must carry.” Sister Chimbende emphasized.
In the same vein, while facilitating one of her sessions, Sister Lire also stressed that as Muslims, the use of condoms is not condoned except in special cases involving married couples.
“We strictly encourage the youth to concentrate in their education rather than engaging in sexual partnerships. You must wait until your appropriate time comes. As for you girls, getting numerous proposals from boys is not an indication or guarantee of your beauty; rather, it just shows how cheap you are!” Exclaimed sister Lire during one of her lighter moments, amid applause from the jovial youthful audience.
“Why should you turn yourself into a driving school car which every learner would use and go? These boys are clever. Some of them just want to prove their manhood so don’t fall prey to such selfish advances.” she advised.
The workshop was also attended by Blantyre City Council’s HIV/AIDS Coordinator, Mr Lothia Ngulube, who also facilitated one of the sessions.
Speaking to Malawi Muslim Official Website, Ngulube commended Musanet for the workshop saying it will help to root out some myths and misconceptions among the youth. He said the programme will mitigate the impact of HIV at community level as well as national efforts.
Responding to how the council addresses the issue of condom use which still stands controversial among the faith community, Mr ngulube said that they are only giving the youth right information on condom use.
“Basically what we are looking at is not necessarily encouraging them to use the condoms, but probably giving them the right information concerning the condoms. When we look at HIV and AIDS, we probably started hearing about HIV in 1981, but the issue of condoms has been there since the 19th century and you will agree with me that the origin of a condom was not to prevent STI’s or diseases like HIV.
“The primary aim of using a condom was to be a family planning tool. Later it was discovered that using condoms would also prevent the transmission of STI’s. After all what we are actually advocating is the ABC model whereby we are looking at abstinence as the first option. The youth are supposed to abstain until they get married.
“Secondly, one has to be faithful to a partner. However, condom use comes in after, as the third option. So whether the faith community is saying no, we are only giving the right information and it’s up to them to integrate it in their teachings.” Concluded Ngulube.
Notably, some of the youth organizations which were represented at the workshop included Swaliheena Institute for Muslim Affairs, Somba Muslim Youth, Che Mussa Sisters, Iqram muslim Youth, mudzayankha Nokha Muslim Youth, Our generation etc. Each organization was represented by five brothers and five sisters.
Speaking on behalf of their fellow participants, James Matembo and Asiyatu Ahmad from Swaliheena Institute said the workshop would go a long way in transforming the lives of the youth spiritually and socially.
Muslim Sisters Aids Network plan to organize three more workshops towards the end of this year which will involve the youth, women leaders and sheikhs respectively, in Chigumula which is their focal area. Similar workshops were also held in Chikhwawa and Zomba.