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HOME: POPULATION ISSUES: PREVENTING HIV INFECTION: HIV/AIDS Update 2002
Preventing HIV Infection
HIV/AIDS Update 2002
Strategy for Prevention
Country Commitments
Regional Response
Global Action
Conclusion: Challenges
Regional Response

Situation by region
Regional initiatives
Country Technical Services Teams
Culture and religion

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Culture and religion

Dialogue and advocacy efforts related to HIV/AIDS build on positive cultural values and norms to find ways of including people from all backgrounds in life-saving efforts to prevent HIV-infection.

Such dialogue is often initiated with religious organizations and leaders, encouraging discussion that extends beyond the borders of countries to regions and religions.

  • Following a UNFPA-sponsored workshop, six Christian denominations in Zimbabwe announced that condoms could be used within the family to prevent HIV transmission. This marked a major shift from statements in recent years that “condom use was a sin”. The churches have united to coordinate HIV prevention activities, voluntary counselling and provision of care to people living with HIV/AIDS.


  • A counselling and behaviour-change project implemented by the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru in Kenya is helping young people prevent HIV infection. This UNFPAsupported project disseminates information through schools and parishes, trains health workers in the diagnosis and treatment of STIs in young people, and works with parents and church member to increase understanding of the threat posed by HIV/AIDS.


  • The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has become more open to HIV/AIDS prevention measures such as condoms and has publicly called for an end to female genital cutting and early marriage—long a part of life in Ethiopia. Awareness among church leaders of the threat posed by HIV/AIDS has been raised significantly through dialogue with UNFPA.

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Building on Positive Cultural Values

Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, addressed the African Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases in Abuja, Nigeria, in April 2001. This is an excerpt from her statement to African leaders:

Experience shows that the first line of defence is acknowledging that HIV/AIDS is a serious threat, unlike any Africa has faced, and responding accordingly.

By killing men and women in the prime of their lives, AIDS removes from society its most productive members, those on whom the family, the community and the country most rely.

Yet the infection is still often seen as shameful. This summit sheds the shame and brings forward openness about the disease, propelling efforts to fight it.

We often invoke cultural values to justify our inaction. But our cultures are full of values that support women and young people, that promote knowledge and dialogue, that build on community solidarity and mutual support among its members.

Let us call upon all these cultural values to move us forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Over half of all new infections are among young people. As parents and adults, we may have reservations about what we should tell our children; we may find it difficult to speak about sexual activity; we may fear that we will encourage a permissive atmosphere. But we must overcome our reservations.

Experience will reassure us—all the evidence shows that young people who are armed with information and who have access to counselling and services will either adhere to abstinence or delay their sexual activity, and are less likely to fall victim to infection or unwanted pregnancy.


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