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Muslim women in Uganda call for condoms to prevent Aids

A new HIV prevention programme for Muslims in Uganda should push condom use, women have said.

The call by some Muslim women goes against local religious leaders wishes that the programme sticks only to promoting faithfulness and abstinence.

"The holy Koran allows Muslim men to marry four wives, but men still go out of wedlock and have extra-marital relationships," said Jazira Mugisa.

Money from the new project should be used to sensitise men on the use of condoms, she told United Nations news service, IRIN.

The four-year prevention programme centres on the central African country’s western district, Kasese and is funded by the US Agency for International Development. Local Muslim leaders have asked for the money – about £27,000 – to be spent on spreading messages encouraging fidelity in marriage and abstinence among unmarried people.

HIV rates are still high among women in Uganda. The Minister for Health, Stephen Malinga said earlier this week that high HIV cases among women raise the risk of death during pregnancy and birth. Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Kampala, he said the challenges met by mothers with HIV/Aids are directly affecting Uganda’s maternal death rate. He warned that unless issues affecting women with HIV/Aids are addressed, Uganda’s efforts to meet the millennium development goals might struggle.

The country’s national HIV prevention programme targets all sections of society and emphasises abstinence, faithfulness and proper use of condoms.

But Sheikh Habib Mande, a religious leader from Kabarole district, said condoms promote immorality and go against the teachings of the Koran. "The disease is spreading among the Muslim community because people have lost morals in society," he said.

Health workers in the area want to raise Muslim women’s awareness of their vulnerability to HIV and highlight ways to handle prevention in polygamous marriages.

"When HIV enters the family, it divides it, each one accusing the other of bringing the disease - it's worse when we are four women with one man," Ms Mugisa told the news wire. "It would be easy to fight HIV as long as the man married to his four wives practised zero grazing [remaining sexually faithful to spouses]."

Despite Muslim leaders refusal to accept condom use, some local women have vowed to do whatever it takes to protect themselves. "We need to talk to our husbands and show them the dangers and impacts of HIV. We have to be open about condoms and encourage them to use them if they cannot be faithful," said Kate Kabatoro.

Hayley attribution