At an HIV/AIDS workshop held on Tuesday speakers have raised an appeal to clerics to increase awareness about the disease to prevent it from spreading in the country.
This workshop titled "AIDS is not a sin but a disease" was organised by the provincial AIDS Control Programme in collaboration with World Health Organisation (WHO).
One of the speakers NWFP Health Minister Inayatullah Khan said that religious scholars in mosques and seminaries could play a significant role in curtailing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
In his words, "He said religious seminaries providing education and other facilities to thousands of students were the biggest NGOs in the country and should be used in the drive against spread of AIDS."
Dr Muhammad Zaffar, the provincial AIDS Control Programme manager, said,"57 AIDS and 402 HIV cases had been registered in NWFP. But according to UN estimates, the number of patients in NWFP could mount to 11,000 if the entire population was screened for the disease."
He also told that provincial Health Department had set up four testing centres, to in Peshawar and one each in Abbottabad and Kohat, which offered free HIV/AIDS screening tests.
Qamarul Islam Siddiqui of the National Aids Control Programme said," When the programme was initially launched, it had met with strong opposition from religious quarters but now hundreds of religious scholars had become part of the programme."