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Islamic Clerics In Tajikistan Join Anti-HIV/AIDS Campaign

An AIDS awareness poster in Dushanbe
An AIDS awareness poster in Dushanbe
DUSHANBE -- Religious clerics in Tajikistan are taking part in a campaign against HIV/AIDS.

Mullah Abdurahim Imam, who heads a mosque in Dushanbe, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that clerics are working with an HIV/AIDS center and international organizations to better understand the disease and learn how to promote a healthy lifestyle.

The Tajik government, the UN Office in Dushanbe, and HIV/AIDS experts have organized regular seminars and roundtables for mullahs and imams.

Muslim clerics have at their Friday sermons encouraged returning migrant workers to take HIV/AIDS tests and to avoid behavior that can lead to HIV, and have urged tolerance toward HIV/AIDS patients.

Manizha Haitova, of the Anti-AIDS Center in Dushanbe, told RFE/RL that mullahs are the most influential segment of Tajik society and should be involved in the anti-HIV/AIDS campaign.

Tajikistan says there are officially 1,400 HIV/AIDS patients in the country, though experts say the real number is likely much higher.