"The Honey That Kills"

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"The Honey That Kills"

Over much of Africa, Death is reaping a grim silent harvest through AIDS. It is a largely silent harvest because AIDS' parent disease, HIV, is spread primarily by sexual contact-and sexual matters are discussed in whispers, if they are discussed at all.

Even the word is commonly avoided. Africans would rather speak of "getting a little honey."

Observers give major credit for the HIV/AIDS pandemic which has swept across the continent to this ingrained reluctance to speak about "bedroom matters." When people came down with the disease, they typically told no one. Even more typically, they refused to find out whether they had been infected. Meanwhile, in many cultures, sex outside of marriage was widely practiced, with men expected to experiment before marriage, and be free to keep mistresses after marriage. In some places, marriageable girls were expected to prove that they were fertile before marriage. So the curse spread, in the most favoring context imaginable.

Into this quagmire of ignorance, fear, tradition, and superstition Trans World Radio (TWR) has been bringing light via the airwaves in Kenya and Uganda since 1993.

The program, now popularly known as "The Honey That Kills," "challenges and encourages those affected by the disease and instructs the healthy on how to avoid becoming infected-not by condom use, but by biblical standards of chastity and fidelity," commented Charles Colson in a Breakpoint radio program.

Radio Uganda became the second national station after Kenya to air the AIDS program through special broadcasts called "AIDS Challenge." And for the past two years, "The Honey That Kills" has been aired also in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland, and Cote d'Ivoire.

Has the program been successful? It has been instrumental in helping Uganda cut its AIDS infection rate in the adult population by more than half over a four-year period-from around 18.5 percent in 1995 to 8.3 percent at the end of 1999. That's a monumental turn-around!

The United Nations AIDS agency reports, "Uganda remains the only African country to have turned a major epidemic around." Trans World Radio spokesman Richard Greene adds, "Trans World Radio teaches people how to remain pure in Christ, and also to be able to introduce people to the Savior. Many people are crediting their abstinence to hearing the good news of Christ through Trans World Radio."

Part of the program's success stems, as Colson notes, from TWR's encouragement of local churches to become actively involved-by biblical teaching on chaste behavior as well as helping patients and their families.

Colson's column concludes: "Some people question whether Christianity is good for society. Well, here's a wonderful answer to those folks where Christians got busy and did something important."

Sobering Statistics:

In rural areas of East Africa, 4 of every 10 children who have lost one of their parents by age 15 have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to 70% of the peo ple who became infected with HIV in 1998.

90% of children living with HIV live in Africa.

43% of pregnant women tested HIV-positive in 1997 in Francistown, Botswana.

In Zimbabwe, approximately one in four people, ages 15-49, are living with HIV or AIDS.

The United Nations AIDS and World Health Organization estimates that at the end of 1999 there were 12.2 million women and 10.1 million men aged 15-49 living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa

Source World Health Organization