HIV EPIDEMIC: PREVENTION & HARM REDUCTION MUST GO HAND IN HAND
In 2005, under the auspices of the Malaysian AIDS Council, the author had the opportunity to attend The 16th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm in Belfast, Ireland. At that time, statistics in Malaysia showed that the majority of people with HIV/AIDS were those who had drug injections (PWID). Following this, The Needle & Syringe Exchange Program was implemented as a harm reduction approach to reduce HIV vulnerability among PWIDs.
On Saturday, 12 October 2019, the author had another opportunity to attend the Gender Health Fiqh Convention 2019 with the theme of Addressing Gender Disorders and Sex Orientation from the Islamic and Health Perspectives and the latest statistics on HIV / AIDS should be of concern to all.
According to Prof. Dr. Azmi Md Nor, the President of I-Medik—one of the organisers of the convention, the latest statistics shows that the LGBT group makes up the majority of those with HIV which represent 50 per cent of new reported cases in 2017. In fact, that number is 14 times higher than that contributed by PWIDs.
Obviously, the demographics of people with HIV have changed. 12 years ago, the majority of them were PWIDs but now the majority are the LGBT group. According to the Malaysia 2018 Country Progress Report on HIV/AIDS, since 2011, sexual transmission has played a bigger role in the transmission of HIV and men who have sex with men (MSM) is expected to become the main driver for the epidemic in the years to come beginning 2018 as projected using the Asian Epidemic Modelling (AEM). Not only that, the HIV face is getting younger with increasing proportion among adolescents and young people aged 13–29 years. In fact, about 90 per cent of the young population have acquired HIV infection through sexual activities.
With the latest statistics, a different target group has become the focus. If in the past the focus was on the PWIDs, now the focus is on the young population with high risk behaviours. Both the prevention and harm reduction approach is being implemented to address such an issue.
Islam prioritises prevention. In order to prevent the prevalence of HIV among the young population, we need to identify the causes. What are the causes of homosexual desires?
As Muslims, we believe that man have been created in the best of moulds (Surah At-Tiin (95). Therefore, it is impossible for Allah to create human beings in contrary to the nature (fitrah) of His creation.
In other words, the nature of a man is to desire a woman and vice versa. It cannot be that Allah creates men and women who go against their own nature. In this context, the born-that-way theory is not acceptable to Muslims in trying to understanding the causes of homosexual desires. Nonetheless, understanding the causes of homosexual desires are very important in order to prevent it.
Dr. Paul Cameron, the Chairman of the Family Research Institute of Colorado, concluded that homosexual behaviour is learned and there are four main causes for it.
Firstly, homosexual experience in childhood, with an adult, particularly a relative or authority figure such as school teachers.
Secondly, family abnormality including: (i) a dominant, possessive, or rejecting mother; (ii) an absent, distant, or rejecting father; (iii) a parent with homosexual proclivities, particularly one who molests a child of the same sex; (iv) a sibling with homosexual tendencies, particularly one who molests a brother or sister; (v) the lack of a religious home environment; (vi) divorce; (vii) parents who model unconventional sex roles; and, (viii) condoning homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle by welcoming homosexuals friends into the family circle.
Thirdly, unusual sexual experience in early childhood including: (i) excessive masturbation; (ii) exposure to pornography; (iii) depersonalised sex by having group sex or sex with animals; and, (iv) sexual interaction of girls with adult males.
Finally, cultural influences which includes: (i) a visible and socially approved homosexual sub-culture that invites curiosity and encourages exploration; (ii) pro-homosexual sex education; (iii) openly homosexual authority figures, such as teachers; (iv) societal and legal toleration of homosexual acts; and, (v) depictions of homosexuality as normal and/or desirable behaviour.
With this knowledge about what causes homosexual desires, we, especially parents, can do our part in order to keep them away from our children.
For example, we can empower our children, both at home and at school, with sex education so that they know their rights and do not become victims of sexual crimes. Similarly, parents can monitor their children’s activities so that they are free from sexual elements. Indeed, we can also try our best to keep our family intact so that it becomes a healthy environment to nurture our children.
The demographics of people with HIV in our country have changed. A decade ago, the majority of them were PIWDs. Now, the majority of them are young people with high risk behaviours. While the Ministry of Health are doing their part to tackle this epidemic, the public—especially parents—can also do theirs to prevent it from their children.