Magazine article The Christian Century

In Senegal, Two Faiths Fight AIDS Together

Magazine article The Christian Century

In Senegal, Two Faiths Fight AIDS Together

Article excerpt

From throughout central and west Africa Lutheran pastors and church health workers, eager to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS, recently traveled to the Senegal capital of Dakar to learn how religious leaders--most notably Islamic teachers--have helped keep the HIV prevalence rate down to around 1.4 per cent.

On a continent where some countries face HIV-infection rates of more than 30 per cent, many experts say Senegal is one of Africa's success stories.

Lutherans from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Togo examined the Senegalese experience in the fight against HIV/AIDS and worked out strategies for their own countries.

"The response of Senegal to the pandemic is very relevant," said Adama Taoko, West Africa regional representative for the Baltimore-based Lutheran World Relief, which organized the 11-day visit to Senegal that ended December 7. "Senegal has been able to work with religious leaders, Muslims and Christians," and bring them together with medical experts, he said.

More than 90 percent of Senegal's population are Muslims, and imams have played a key role in educating the public by speaking openly at mosques during weekly prayer meetings about HIV/AIDS. They have also encouraged local Christians to do the same.

In Linguere, 250 kilometers northeast of Dakar, a Roman Catholic-run project organized awareness-raising meetings on HIV/AIDS, and 15 imams participated, explained Anne Ruedisili Langdji, coordinator of a Lutheran health care project. …

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