HIV and the gurus: religiosity, plurality and the challenge of a ‘Hindu’ response

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The response to HIV is more dependent on the support of social leaders than most other diseases. Over the past decade, involving faith-based leaders in prevention programmes has become a cornerstone of the response in many regions, particularly in Africa. Until now, this has largely involved the mobilization of Christian faith-based leaders or the Muslim ulema in the case of Uganda. Hindu-faith-based leaders have never been mobilized in any organized form until recently. This is partly due to the immense plurality of Hindu sects which mitigates against any kind of unilinear organization and partly due to denial by leading Hindu figures. The recent formation of the Hindu Leaders’ Caucus on HIV and AIDS is a novel development and more so is the commitment by more than 50 prominent Hindu religious leaders to incorporate HIV messages into their religious discourses. This article examines the complexity of putting together such a coalition, the challenges in sustaining it and the issues raised by many Hindu-faith-based leaders with respect to HIV which shed light on deeper narratives of health, society and well-being within Hinduism.


By Nalin Mehta in South Asian History and Culture, Volume 1, Issue 2 - March 19, 2010

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