Many authors agree to the fact that AIDS has been a pandemic in Africa (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 3). The disease was first traced to the Central Africa: AIDS spread fast across the African continent and beyond during the 19th and 20th centuries. The faster spread in Africa may be attributed to their way of life, which is a close knit society guided by beliefs and customs. These beliefs make Africa a more religious continent than any of the others (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 4). Even though, many authors look closely at Christianity and Muslim as major religions; traditional African beliefs seem to have played a major role in the spread of AIDS than the other religions. The entrenchment of Africa into strong religious beliefs and culture has contributed directly and indirectly to the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and thus a surge in mortality rates resulting from these diseases will be explored in current paper.
In most African communities, the belief of a Supreme Being takes the central stage. As a result, there are spelt out ways of life which everyone must adhere to. However, most of these beliefs gave a wide space to sex, sacrifices and polygamy, which became main tunnels of AIDS transmission and widespread (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 45). For example in the African traditional religion, polygamy and a customary practice are allowed. Studies have shown that HIV/AIDS continues to spread at an increasing rate among married partners. This is so because of sharing of sexual contact among a string of partners. A man who is HIV positive thus renders vulnerable to HIV infection, all the other wives with whom he has sex. Such women are likely to contract HIV infection from their husbands who are rendered sexually free to have multiple sexual partners by the African traditional religion.
Although, certain religions in Africa, such as Christianity, do not support polygamy; others, such as Islamic faith, permits polygamy and a man can marry more than one wife. In such cases, a man who has contracted HIV/AIDS can easily spread the disease to the marital partners. In this view, religion increases vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, especially among the Muslim community. These religious faiths, such as Christianity and Islamic one, promote patriarchy: where males are treated as kings by females and their demand of sex could not be questioned. Additionally, the practice of polygamy meant an infected man could infect more than one woman, who was legal wife, as well as the inherited ones as practiced by the majority of communities in Africa.
In most communities, HIV/AIDS preventive mechanisms were challenged by the strong traditional African beliefs. AIDS was considered as a punishment from the Supreme Being and could only be sorted out by going back to obeying the beliefs. This punishment was considered to be caused by disobedience to the cultures and African religious values (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 24). Remedies involved medications by medicine men. Most of the medicine involved piercing with objects which acted as modes of transmission for AIDS. On the other hand, most people believed AIDS to be some sort of superstition; hence Christianity being seen as a solution to superstition. In the process, the disease has only spread since many people did not understand the real cause of the disease and precautionary measures.
During the same period, Christianity was penetrating the African continent with a mixed leadership of both the western missionaries and a few Africans coming into active Christian advocacy. However, earlier, the majority of Christian stakeholders argued that AIDS was a curse from God due to disobedience. This argument meant that the pandemic was only approached on the spiritual lines in pulpits with no medical attention. Moreover, lack of curative medication helped the church leaders to assert their stand and sway their followers to the spiritual solution. As a result, most communities joined Christianity, given the new outlook of the same belief in a Supreme Being who was already a belief (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 189). Those who sought medical solution were considered to have less faith in the divine healing of God. This gave the room for the disease to thrive and spread faster and claim many lives, thus increased HIV/AIDS related mortalities in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
Religion in Africa has significantly thwarted initiatives aimed at promoting safety and reducing the risks of infection related to HIV/AIDS. For example, some religious groups oppose the use of condoms as a means of protection against HIV/AIDS. Those who embrace the safe sex practices were labeled as immoral and murderers. The Catholic Church, for example, banned all advertisement relating to safe sex in 2009 in Kenya (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 49). This has become a great impediment in the war against HIV/AIDS in Africa. For instance, too many different religious movements in Africa have joined the mainstream churches in condemning all the campaigns and advocacy initiatives on condom use and other activities aimed at promoting safer sex relationships. Instead, such advocacy and campaigns have been perceived and classified as initiatives and programs aimed at promoting extra-marital sex. They claimed further that condoms were not effective means of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Thus, religion has inadvertently caused the spread of HIV/IDS.
The control and prevention strategy, proposed by the Western governments to reduce the spread of AIDS, was mainly abstinence. The use of condoms elicited mixed reactions to date with most faith-based organizations arguing that it encouraged immorality; hence can cause further degradation of societal morals (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 15). Additionally, handling of condoms was wanting and there were small probabilities of infection, even with their use. However, scientists held to the fact that condoms were better than none and had been shown to reduce the rate of infection to a greater extent.
Many religious groups in Africa have been reluctant to adopt the modern safety programs for the vulnerable populations to HIV/AIDS. For example, the church has been opposed to the provision of syringes and needles are what have come to be known as the Needle Syringe Exchange Programs (NSEP). Such programs are meant to reduce the risks associated with sharing of needles and other injection equipments. However, most governments have been challenged by religious groups. Instead, such programs have been perceived to create a permissive environment for Thrival of drugs and substance abuse and immorality among the drug users (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 41). As a result, many have died due to risk behaviors such as sharing of injection materials. Thus, an injecting drug users increase in Africa, so shall HIV prevail.
Certain African religious practices have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS. For example, certain religious beliefs such as wife inheritance among certain religious groups; especially, the New Religious Movements, is considered normal. Women, who lose their husbands either due to infection with HIV/AIDS or other infection, are likely to spread the disease further to the inheriting men. Studies in new HIV/AIDS infection have shown that widows in Africa were likely to spread the infection to men. In fact, 21 percent of men infected with HIV/AIDS after marriage likely contracted the disease from widows they inherited, whose husbands had died (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 24). Widows who are not inherited were thus considered outcasts by their cultural and religious beliefs. They, therefore, had no alternative but to indulge in sex with new partners, following the death of their partners. New mortalities have resulted from such religious beliefs.
Most Christian religious groups have stigmatized and condemned people who are suffering from the infection of HIV/AIDS. Such people are, as a result, died of guilt or simply due to ignorance, since they considered themselves condemned by their religious groups or circles. Thus the shame, condemnation and guilt that comes with being known to be HIV positive (Trinitapoli and Wenreib, 49). Thus, instead of helping in reducing the stigma associated with the disease, the religious groups have sent many to the graves before their time since the guilt or stigma weighs such people down so quickly; even more than the disease could have done to such persons. In this way, the church and other religious groups have contributed to the rise in mortalities related to HIV/AIDS.
In conclusion, AIDS has been a pandemic in Africa. It has led to huge mortalities of educated professionals at their prime ages. Additionally, huge sums of money are being used in its prevention and control in order to save the effects on the productive age that are worst affected. An understanding the role of religion in the African context would reduce the Western approaches, which are not readily adoptable in Africa. The unique role of religion in Africa cannot just be wished away. Religion and AIDS are greatly intertwined. The rise of HIV/AIDS in Africa has led to rise in mortality rates. Although, religion has been considered as a variable leading to reduction in mortality rates; certain religions have contributed to rise in the mortality rates. For example, some African religious practices have only served to increase vulnerability to HIV/AIDS further, leading to increased mortality rates.