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Muslim community joins war against HIV and Aids

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Updated Tuesday, November 29th 2011 at 00:00 GMT +3

With reported cases of infections among faithful, community takes the war to the dreaded disease, writes KIUNDU WAWERU

Until recently, it was taboo for a Muslim to voluntarily go for tests to ascertain his or her HIV/ Aids status.

But Ms Rehema Rashid was one of the first people to buck the trend — at least in the sprawling region.

Rehema is a trailblazer who preaches over hills, plains and valleys that everyone, including Muslims, is at a risk of being infected with HIV.

My Health caught up with the mother of three — who hails from Kwale — in Mombasa last week.

At Msambweni District Hospital, she tested positive. Post-test counsellors advised her to live positively and join a support group.

But she belonged to a religion whose adherents did not believe they could easily contract HIV.

How would she live with her family with this kind of stigma? After many false starts, she joined a support group in Mombasa.

Mr Mahmoud Abdillahi Mahmoud, an HIV and Aids activist, comments on how Muslims viewed the disease in the past.

"We have in the past believed HIV is for sinners but as leaders, we have realised that our people are being infected in silence."

Mahmoud is the secretary-general of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), Mombasa County.

When going to the local Comprehensive Care Centre Units in government hospitals that were then seriously stigmatised, Rehema would wear a face veil that left space for her eyes only.

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