Monday, 2 January 2012

Prevention is better than a cure

Except when what's being prevented is some real education.

I was mooching over in the news websites of my birth country and came across this little nugget

EFFORTS to prevent HIV/AIDS must continue even if the number of people suffering from the disease in the Sultanate is low.
This was stressed in the weekly sermon yesterday by Imams at mosques throughout Brunei.

Okay, I resist the urge to prejudge.  After all, just because this advice is coming from the religious leaders of a predominantly Muslim country, it doesn't mean that they can't offer some words of wisdom.  They do mention that making the public aware of the disease and proper medical facilities and practice should be in place to help lower instances of AIDS and HIV infection.  The sermon also mentions to people that unsafe sex was a factor in spreading the disease and anyone who thought they were at risk should be tested.

Brilliant!  What more could the sermon also tell their congregation?  Perhaps some basic level education on how to practice safe sex, or on drug use?  PAH. 

Muslims need to stop themselves and their families from committing sins such as premarital sex.
"It is our responsibility as a Muslim, a parent, a guardian, a neighbour and a friend to give advice and reprimand if we ever catch our children, family members or friends committing an action that is against the religion," the sermon stated, adding that individuals should not be ashamed to do so.
"Remember that the act of not caring is one of the factors why sinful acts such as fornication and misuse of drugs continue to happen, without realising that these factors are the causes of AIDS."
What sort of advice is this to give?  Sex outside of marriage is bad and causes AIDS?  It's against their brand of religion and thus you shouldn't do it?  What about offering real advice, like education about safe, consensual sex or about drug use and safety?  Education is not about condoning the behaviour, but keeping the individual safe from harm and yet some people are so willfully ignorant of that fact.  That last paragraph also had a nice little bit of blame laced through it.  If a friend or family member is aware of someone close to them being "immoral", then they are as much to blame if they fail to warn them of the folly of their ways. 

Parents are told to be clever yet firm in handling their children in this matter, but how are the parents supposed to do this with so little information themselves?  They aren't taught anything about safe sex, or about birth control or condoms or the dangers of things like sharing needles.  Most of these parents only have their Imams and scriptures to go back on for advice, which are woefully lacking in facts.  Some children might be lucky enough to have enlightened parents who might be able to offer advice that the rest of us take for granted, but I'm not so optimistic about that.  Instead, abstinence is taught, but that in itself doesn't work.  Just because you're a Muslim who follows doctrine doesn't mean you're going to be able to shut down your sexual urges until your wedding night.  I mean, bloody hell, but I have known some pretty damned horny Bruneians, not just of my generation but of the older generation as well! 

Brunei always prided itself on being modern yet upholding traditions, on being leaders in the Second World when it comes to development and society.  But news like this makes me shake my head and remember that the country's population still has a ways to go.

But you know, let's not end on a downer.  Happy New Year, everyone!

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