Friday, September 06, 2013

Religious Conservatism Protects Against AIDS in Sub-Sahara Africa: Researchers

On examining the correlation between religious practices and HIV it turns out that the level of infection is notably lower among members of theologically conservative traditions.

One study in Malawi found that religious men and women in religious villages were less likely to be infected with HIV. The relationship was stronger for women than men.

Level of religion

They also found that it did not matter which Church or faith people belonged to in terms of the level of HIV infection. The critical factor is how religious people are.

Religion also plays an important part in educating people about AIDS and how it is transmitted. In general in SSA the authors found that a majority of Catholics and Protestants knew about how the infection is transmitted, a higher level of knowledge than among Muslims and practitioners of traditional religions.

When it comes to an infection related to sexual transmission, abstinence is clearly the most effective way to avoid contracting the illness, the authors admitted. While both secular and religious groups promote abstinence they do so from very different perspectives.

The secular groups advocate abstinence from purely instrumental reasons, while religious groups do so as a moral issue, the authors commented. Religious messages, they noted, reach a wider audience, and are more in tune with the situation of the average African.

As in the rest of the world adolescents who are religiously active are also less likely to be sexually active, compared to their less religious counterparts, the authors observed. Research has shown that this can have important consequences in curbing the spread of HIV.

In addition to promoting abstinence all the major religions promote marital fidelity. Not only in SSA, but around the world, studies show that those who regularly attend religious services are less likely to engage in extra-matrimonial sex, the authors commented.

“Religion shapes how people think about fidelity, temptation, and risk,” they noted.