Abstinence Effort Slashes AIDS/HIV in Uganda

by Barbara Brake

I've saved myself for you," Carol and Daudi told each other during their 1999 wedding ceremony. As they exchanged wedding vows at Kampala Baptist Church, this Ugandan couple also exchanged the True Love Waits commitment cards each had signed, promising to postpone sex until entering a biblical marriage.
Carol and Daudi fell in love while enrolled at Makerere University in Kampala. One of their common bonds was that both had decided to be sexually abstinent until they married. Daudi decided to remain a virgin until marriage and to marry only one woman despite having a polygamist father. When Daudi's father died, 98 of his children could be accounted for, while other children's whereabouts were unknown.
"I want something different," Daudi said. "I want one wife and the number of children I can care for. I want a better life." The couple's first child was born last year.
True Love Waits' message is making a profound impact in Uganda where people like Carol and Daudi are saving sex for marriage. The sexual abstinence campaign is receiving credit for a remarkable drop in the AIDS rate in this East African country where the rate of HIV/AIDS has fallen from 30 percent of the population in the early 1990s to around 10 percent today.
Government leaders and some HIV/AIDS activists in Uganda cite True Love Waits for much of the success. Sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, True Love Waits got its start in the United States in 1993. Word quickly spread not only across America but also to other nations, due in large part to a barrage of worldwide media coverage of the emerging movement in which teenagers sign pledges to remain sexually abstinent until they marry.
The True Love Waits campaign was launched in Kampala, Uganda, on July 29, 1994, with a large public celebration and parade to coincide with the first national True Love Waits celebration held the same day on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Complete with banners and police escort, the parade of between 400 to 500 youths marched from the city square to Makerere University for the last session of the Central and Eastern African Students' Conference.
With True Love Waits' success in Uganda, supported by religious organizations and schools, some HIV/AIDS activists see abstinence as a prevention model that can be successful in other African countries. In a recent CNSNews.com story, a study by development expert Rand Stoneburner says the Uganda prevention model, which also has included condom use and HIV testing, has the potential to reduce the AIDS rate in Africa's worst-stricken countries by 80 percent.
Uganda is one of many success stories in the worldwide reach of True Love Waits. Campaign materials have been translated into Spanish and French. More than 220,000 international True Love Waits covenant cards representing countries on every continent were displayed Aug. 1-6, 1995, during the Baptist World Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As part of the national youth ministers' meeting during Atlanta ‘96, 350,000 commitment cards gathered from all 50 states and 76 countries were pulled to the roof of the Georgia Dome. About half of the cards represented commitments from young people living outside the United States.
Next on the horizon for the international focus of True Love Waits is an event being planned for Athens, Greece, with informational updates being posted at www.truelovewaits.com.
3 True Love Waits Concerts in Ecuador
Meanwhile, the message of sexual abstinence before marriage, especially among young people, was the theme of a series of concerts in Ecuador in February. Missionaries Michio Ozaki and Ty Stakes joined Abner and Daniel Perez, brothers, and three other Ecuadorian musicians as part of a seven-man band that presented contemporary Christian music in Quito, Ambato, and Manta.
"The response was great," Ozaki said. "More than 600 high school students attended the three concerts. We sang several songs with styles ranging from rock to pop and jazz. Then we showed some videos with the same title of our theme song, ‘El Verdadero Amor Espera' (True Love Waits). These were mini-dramas showing how sex before marriage destroys the relationship rather than building it."
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