Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Keeping the Faith: HIV, Islam and Beyond

15
JUN
2011

Aids Alliance

Malaysia’s Islamic religious authorities continue to scale up efforts to address HIV related issues affecting key populations in a week long campaign spanning two states.

Training the Leaders

Pioneers of the faith-based HIV response programme HIV & Islam, the religious policy-making Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (JAKIM) and Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) expanded two of its core activities to two predominantly Muslim-populated east coastal states of Kelantan and Pahang from May 18 to 27.

The launch of the HIV & Islam manual and subsequent training of facilitators and new religious leaders in HIV and AIDS, in Kota Bharu, Kelantan saw 39 officials and imams of the Kelantan state Islamic religious authority participate.

The training workshop was conducted to educate religious officials and leaders on knowledge of HIV and AIDS and issues affecting most at-risk populations, with a particular focus on Islam’s rejection of stigma and discriminatory practices.

Capitalising on the influence of religious leaders on the attitudes of their communities toward people living with HIV and most at-risk populations, the workshop additionally trained the religious leaders to become peer educators to communicate about HIV at the grassroots level. The four-day training curriculum was designed based on the principles of HIV harm reduction within the context of Islam as outlined in the HIV & Islam manual.

The decision to hold the workshop in the state of Kelantan was important as it is the state that is hardest hit by the HIV epidemic on an annual basis, with incidence rates as high as 28.8 cases per 100,000 people in 2010.

Director-General of JAKIM, Tuan Haji Othman Mustapha, who officiated at the launch hoped that the manual would ‘dispel myths and misconceptions about HIV transmission among the religious leaders’, as many reportedly had faced difficulty in dealing with HIV cases. The workshop was the third in a series, with plans to extend to other states similarly affected by the HIV epidemic in the immediate future.

Training for transgender people

This was the second instalment of the Mukhayyam advocacy programme which started in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan in March earlier this year.

Held from May 24 to 27 in Kuantan, Pahang, the Mukhayyam brought together 30 members of the often marginalised transgender or mak nyah population to benefit from this groundbreaking collaboration with JAKIM, MAC, Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) and Dagang Halal, a halal food processing giant, under the HIV & Islam project.

The programme is an initiative by JAKIM to improve the livelihoods of mak nyahs, and to promote societal acceptance of and tolerance for the mak nyah community. Through intense negotiation brokered by JAKIM and MAC, MARA and Dagang Halal agreed to offer employment opportunities to members from this marginalised community.

The Mukhayyam programme an integral part of the joint JAKIM-MAC action plan to address the socio-economic disparities in the mak nyah population because of social stigma and discrimination. It adopts a non-judgmental approach, ‘embracing gender diversity with no restrictions or impositions’.

Over three-and-a-half days activities were specifically tailored to provide participants with skills building training and HIV education through a series of interactive talks and workshops conducted by trained facilitators. The participants were then presented with the option of employment at the end of the programme.