Biblical Purity Message Expands Across HIV-Stricken Africa

Nearly $1 million will go toward the expansion of a global abstinence program in Africa, where HIV/AIDS infections prevail.

Biblically-based True Love Waits International, created by LifeWay Christian Resources, will use $950,000 in donor gifts to promote a message of moral purity and encourage sexual abstinence until marriage in six African countries.

"Although HIV/AIDS is a concern worldwide, the most concentrated and high-risk area continues to be the continent of Africa, where the life expectancy in some countries has dropped from age 42 to as low as age 30," said LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer, according to Baptist Press. "We are very pleased to make this announcement today (Apr. 11) because we believe True Love Waits can be the answer for the AIDS epidemic on the entire continent."

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The plan for expansion comes as a recently published national study revealed the positive impact religious institutions can have in the prevention of spreading HIV/AIDS. RAND Corporation, a non-profit research think tank, found that people who say religion is an important part of their lives are likely to have fewer sexual partners and engage in high-risk sexual behavior less frequently than other people with HIV.

Moreover, a 2006 UNAIDS report found notable declines in HIV prevalence in such countries as Kenya and Zimbabwe alongside indications of significant behavioral change, including increased condom use, fewer partners and delayed sexual debut.

As reports suggest the significant role moral beliefs play in HIV prevention, True Love Waits plans to spread its message of biblical purity to help lower the HIV/AIDS infection rate in the African continent.

Already, Uganda has seen a drop in the infection rate from 30 percent to about 6 percent since True Love Waits was introduced to the country 13 years ago, reported the ministry.

"Some leaders in Uganda say that this turnaround has literally saved a generation," said Jimmy Hester, co-founder of the True Love Waits movement, Baptist Press reported.

In 2004, at the 10th anniversary celebration of the True Love Waits movement, more than 460,000 commitment to abstinence cards from youth in more than 20 countries, including 200,000-plus from South Africa, arrived in Athens along with additional pledges through e-mail.

According to a study published in 2001 by the American Journal of Sociology, teenagers who pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage are 34 percent less likely to have sex than those who do not take virginity vows.

"We believe that expanding True Love Waits to other parts of Africa has the potential of dramatically lowering the HIV/AIDS infection rate in those countries as well."

Countries included in the expansion for the True Love Waits program are South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho.

Donations directed toward the expansion come from LifeWay's "A Defining Moment," which is a $29 million philanthropic campaign initiated in 2005 to touch the nations for Christ through True Love Waits, Bible translations, a Leadership Training Institute and discipleship training.

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