Religion and HIV/AIDS

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The relationship between religion and HIV/AIDS is complicated, and often controversial. Controversies have mainly revolved around LGBT people and condom use.

Religious attitudes towards HIV-positive people and AIDS[edit]


The question of Islam and AIDS has arisen in recent years as the HIV/AIDS epidemic has grown stronger, with awareness and efforts to prevent the spread of the disease.[1] Many Muslims view the AIDS epidemic through what is called the “prism of sin”, and as the consequence of sinful behavior, such as prostitution, sex with multiple partners or promiscuity.[1] Awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is growing among the Muslim community and efforts are being initiated to prevent its spread. The Muslim Awareness Programme (MAP), based in South Africa is a faith-based organization that promotes HIV/AIDS prevention strategies based on the moral teachings of Islam. These activities include the promotion of abstinence from all sexual activity outside marriage; refraining from drug use, and instilling faithfulness within marriage. According to most Muslims, the key to combating to the HIV/AIDS epidemic is prevention.[citation needed] In their view, the Islamic position on morality, chastity and the sanctity of marriage needs to be shared with the world. Islam cites sex with multiple partners, sex outside marriage, other promiscuous sexual behaviors and homosexuality as immoral and as a result of this some Muslims consider this behavior the main cause of HIV/AIDS, believing that promoting abstinence, chastity, and intramarital sex is the key to ending or at least containing the epidemic.

Judaism and Jewish thinkers[edit]

As opposed to the Catholic Church and some other denominations or religions, today, there isn't any central Jewish religious authority that is acceptable by vast majority of religious Jews or by most Jewish religious movements.

Orthodox Judaism links between immoral sexual behavior and AIDS. Immanuel Jakobovits, Baron Jakobovits, former Chief Rabbi of England, a prominent figure in 20th century Jewish medical ethics[2] maintains in his article "Halachic Perspectives on AIDS" that "... from my reading of Jewish sources, it would appear that under no circumstances would we be justified in branding the incidence of the disease (...) as punishment ... we have not the vision, that would enable us to link, as an assertion of certainty, any form of human travail, grief, bereavement or suffering in general with shortcomings of a moral nature... It is one thing to speak of a consequence, and it is quite another thing to speak of a punishment ... if you warn a child not to play with fire, lest he gets burnt, and the child then gets burnt, then the burning may not be a punishment for not listening, but it certainly is a consequence. ... I think we should declare in very plain and explicit terms indicating that our society violated some of the norms of the Divine Law, and of the natural law, and that as a consequence we pay a price, and an exceedingly heavy price. This certainly is Jewish doctrine ..."[3]

In Jewish Orthodox society, having AIDS is considered a mark of disgrace.[4]

Conservative and Reform Judaism emphasize the importance of bikur cholim, the responsibility to care for the sick:

"The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism calls upon all of its congregations to reach out to individuals infected with the AIDS virus, their families and their friends by providing acceptance, comfort, counseling, and sympathetic and empathetic listening; and ... affirms that those infected with the AIDS virus must be protected from all forms of illegal discrimination, such as discriminatory housing, employment, health care delivery services and synagogue services."[5] Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Director of the Joint Commission on Social Action of the Union for Reform Judaism: "However, we must look past the incomprehensible statistics and long lists of facts and recognize the Divine image within the faces of the individual people infected and affected by this disease. The responsibility lies with each of us to protect and care for these victims ..."[6]


Many Christian charities provide services for people living with HIV/AIDS.[citation needed] One example is the "Drug Resources Enhancement against Aids and Malnutrition" (DREAM), program promoted by the Christian Community of Sant'Egidio.

Jerry Falwell regularly linked the AIDS pandemic to LGBT issues and stated, "AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals, it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."[7]


Hinduism has shown support for research aimed at curing HIV/AIDS, and care for those affected by HIV/AIDS.



The Catholic Church opposes condom use between heterosexual couples because it is an artificial form of contraception that does not rely on the functions of the body (and thus also God's will) itself as to whether a conception will occur or not, and the Church believes it also serves to implicitly and inexcusably encourage premarital and extramarital sexuality (and recourse to abortion if the condom fails).[citation needed]

Pope John Paul II strongly opposed the use of artificial birth control, and rejected the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.[8] Pope Benedict XVI stated in 2005 that condoms were not a sufficient solution to the AIDS crisis,[9] but then in 2009 claimed that AIDS "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."[10] The Moscow Patriarchate gave support to Benedict XVI's position.[11] In response to Benedict XVI's statements, the United Church of Christ issued a statement encouraging condom distribution at places of worship.[12]

On November 20, 2010, when questioned about the rampant HIV spread in Africa, Pope Benedict XVI suggested that the use of condoms in male prostitution is not a moral solution to stopping AIDS, but could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."[13] Vatican City clarifies, after Benedict's statement sows confusion, that the position of the Church on condoms has not changed. It is merely a statement that in homosexual relations, where unnatural contraception is not the main concern, condoms can be seen as moral responsibility in preventing HIV infections.[14] On November 23, 2010, Benedict furthermore stated that the concept of condoms as a lesser evil in preventing HIV infections can be applied to women as well. The use of condoms is the first step in taking responsibility and attempting to prevent the infection of one's partner. The Pope does not say anything about condoms being acceptable as unnatural birth control, only as a responsible approach.[15]


In Thailand, some Buddhist monks encourage the use of condoms for HIV prevention.[16] As part of Mechai Viravaidya's pro-condom campaign, Buddhist monks have offered blessed condoms for couples.[17]


The work of some Christian ministries has affected the treatment of AIDS. According to the African Health Policy Network, some churches in London claim that prayer will cure AIDS and the Hackney-based Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV reports that several people have stopped taking their medication, sometimes on the direct advice of their pastor, leading to a number of deaths.[18] The Synagogue Church Of All Nations advertise an "anointing water" to promote God's healing, although the group deny advising people to stop taking medication,[18] and US patent application 2001051133 similarly suggests that intravenous pure distilled water will eradicate HIV through the mercy of God.[19] Other Christian churches actively distribute HIV/AIDS medication.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Najma Mohamed. "Tackling AIDS Through Islam?". Islam Online. Archived from the original on May 29, 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  2. ^ Immanuel Jakobovits, Baron Jakobovits
  3. ^ [1] ASSIA – Jewish Medical Ethics, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1991, pp. 3–8
  4. ^ Alana Krivo-Kaufman. "Jewish Responses to HIV: A Mitzvah". Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  5. ^ United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (1991). "United Synagogue Resolution On AIDS". The Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. Archived from the original on 20 September 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  6. ^ "Reform Jewish Leader Mourns AIDS Deaths and Calls for Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Prevention". Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Archived from the original on 27 November 2010. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  7. ^ Press, Bill. "Press: The Sad Legacy of Jerry Falwell". Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 2007-05-18.
  8. ^ "Catholic Church to Ease Ban on Condom Use". © 2006, 2009 Deutsche Welle. 24 April 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  9. ^ "Pope rejects condoms for Africa". BBC News. 2005-06-10. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  10. ^ "Pope Benedict XVI: condoms make Aids crisis worse". The Telegraph. 2009-03-17. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
  11. ^ "Moscow Patriarchate Backs Pope's Stance on Condoms". Zenit News Agency. 21 March 2009.
  12. ^ UCC’s health advocates press for increased condom distribution
  13. ^ "Pope says some condom use first step of morality". Yahoo News. Associated Press. 20 November 2010. Archived from the original on 21 November 2010.
  14. ^ "Vatican clarifies pope's condom comments: Nothing's changed". USA Today. 2010-11-23.
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ "Buddhist Monk Embraces Condoms". 2007-02-07. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  17. ^ "Global Health Champions: Mechai Viravaidya". PBS. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  18. ^ a b "Church HIV prayer cure claims 'cause three deaths'". BBC News. 18 October 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  19. ^ US application 2001051133