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Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 11:06 UK

SA Muslim HIV test call condemned

Testing blood samples for HIV
Mr Shah said the Muslim community was not immune from the HIV threat

Aids activists in South Africa have dismissed as unconstitutional a call for all Muslim couples to have a compulsory HIV test before marriage.

"It undermines public health and it will further stigmatise and discriminate against people," Aids activist Fatima Ahmed told the BBC.

The proposal was made by opposition MP Maulana Rafeek Shah.

He told the BBC the objective was not to discriminate but to educate the Muslim community about the Aids threat.

'Threat'

"The objective is to remove the stigma and the mystery that is associated with HIV and Aids," the Democratic Alliance MP told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Making pre-marital testing compulsory and then disclosure to the cleric performing your wedding ceremony under Islamic law is not going to empower you
Fatima Ahmed
Aids Law Project

"South Africa has the world's highest HIV/Aids prevalence rate infection, in fact I would not be exaggerating if I said HIV poses a far more serious threat to security of South Africa and South African society as a whole than any other conventional threat."

"The Muslim community is... not immune."

Mr Shah said the United Ulama Council of South Africa, which oversees Muslim clerics, was going to consider his proposal later in August.

But Ms Ahmed of South Africa's Aids Law Project said the move may be "well intentioned" but was widely unpopular.

"It falls foul of a number of constitutional protections and will, if implemented, actually contravene our laws on informed consent and on voluntary disclosure," she said.

"Making pre-marital testing compulsory and then disclosure to the cleric performing your wedding ceremony under Islamic law is not going to empower you," she added.

Promoting HIV tests during marriage, especially polygamous marriages, would be a better initiative as married women were under more serious threat, she said.


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