In honor of International AIDS Day, a conference was held Monday in Ramallah on ways to prevent spread of the disease in the Palestinian Authority, where there are 80 listed infected people.
Religious figures who participated in the conference cautioned that one of Israel's aims is to damage the Palestinians by spreading promiscuous norms that are likely to negatively affect residents of the PA.
"Israel is trying to hurt the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people also by means of exporting AIDS, drug trafficking, promiscuous norms, and making prostitution legal," warned president of the sharia religious court in the PA, Sheikh Taissir Tamimi, and spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Atalla Hanna.
According to the religious figures, religious belief is the key safeguard against the relatively limited spread of the disease in the Palestinian Territories and the most surefire tool for fighting the disease.
Archbishop Hanna said that Israel is conducting a battle against Palestinian societal values.
"A few weeks ago, the Israelis wanted to organize a parade of sexual deviants who wanted to demonstrate for their right to be sexual and moral deviants all in order to damage our values and the holiness of Jerusalem. These people wanted to hold the parade in Jerusalem of all places," he said.
Hanna also said that he had read in one of the Palestinian newspapers about a young AIDS-infected Israeli woman who, according to the article, arrived in Jerusalem in order to infect young Palestinians with the disease. The archbishop called the Palestinian public to beware of such dangers.
Two religious figures emphasized that people with AIDS should not be ostracized "because there is no certainty that they were infected through immoral acts or forbidden sexual relations outside of marriage, but may have been infected for other reasons. Therefore, they should not be excommunicated."
Heads of the religious court emphasized that all the monotheistic religions forbid participating the activities that result in AIDS – "prostitution and homosexual relations."
The speaker who touched the conference attendees the most was Abed, a Palestinian AIDS patient, who revealed his story.
In a conversation with Ynet, Abed said that he was infected while working in the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf. "I worked well and lived well, and like every young person in their 30s I partied. Just as I planned to return to the (Palestinian) Territories in order to marry and start a family, I did an AIDS test and the results came back positive," he said.
According to him, the most difficult moment in dealing with the disease was when he couldn't donate blood to his sister who had become sick with cancer. "Even though we have the same blood type, I, of course, couldn’t donate. I ran out of the hospital in order to avoid that meeting with her. My sister passed away a short time later," he recalled.
As a result of the disease, Abed lost vision in one eye, and his vision in the other eye is severely impaired. On the treatment of Palestinian society, he said: "I never felt as though they treat me like an exile. There were only two instances – once when a Palestinian intelligence officer asked me if I had infected other people, and another time when a hospital clerk warned a barber not to accept me out of concern that he would be infected with the disease. But since then, my life is normal, except for dealing with the question why I don't get married."
Today, Abed is trying to explain to other young people in the PA that is forbidden to have sexual relations outside of marriage. "Maintain your integrity, maintain the purity of your life and choose your partner. Because no other contraceptive helps not to be infected by the disease."
In the past few days, a news release was published in the Palestinian Authority about an AIDS-infected young man who arrived at the hospital in Ramallah and was met with disparagement. According to the report, he was shoved into one of the corners of the hospital and the doctors visibly showed signs of disgust and fear.
Those attending the conference, both religious figures and doctors, hope that the event will help Palestinians understand the dangers of AIDS and will increase awareness of the disease.