"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 met at the Baptist Student Center and 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, ninety-eight 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 party to a barrage of worldwide media coverage of the emerging movement in which teenagers sign pledges to remain sexually abstinent until they marry.
Uganda is a country where Christian leaders see True Love Waits as a God-sent way to combat the growing menace of HIV and AIDS.
Joining with other Christian leaders, husband-and-wife Southern Baptist missionary pair Larry and Sharon Pumpelly led the way in 1993 for True Love Waits in Uganda. They launched the campaign in Kampala 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 youth marched from the city square to Makerere University for the last session of the Central and Eastern African Students Conference.
True Love Waits has the attention and support of Uganda's first lady, Janet Museveni, a Christian who is outspoken in promoting sexual abstinence until marriage and the recipient of awards and accolades for her work in her country's struggle with HIV and AIDS. She spoke at the 1994 parade. Last year when addressing the International Christian Conference on HIV/AIDS, she said her husband, President Yoweri Museveni, has set the tone for his government by emphasizing a return to time-tested cultural practices which emphasize fidelity as opposed to premarital and extra-marital sex.
With True Love Waits' success in Uganda with the support of schools and religious organizations, 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, if used elsewhere 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. The Baptist World Alliance has carried the campaign's message to its membership of 44 million Baptists in 200 countries. 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 fifty states and seventy-six 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.
Christian leaders from others countries visit Nashville-based LifeWay to learn more about and share their experiences with True Love Waits. In 1995, Fano Sibisi from the Zulu nation in South Africa met with Richard Ross and Jimmy Hester, co-founders of True Love Waits. At the time, Sibisi reported that True Love Waits had been introduced to several cultural groups in South Africa, including the English, Afrikaans, Sothos, Zulus, and Xhosas.
People from seventy-nine countries have contacted LifeWay about the sexual abstinence campaign. From the African continent inquiries have come from people living in Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
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.
Bush Signs AIDS Initiative Targeting Africa and Caribbean
President Bush signed into law May 27 an emergency global AIDS initiative he proposed to Congress only four months before.
The new law authorizes $15 billion in U.S. aid during the next five years to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in countries devastated by the disease in Africa and the Caribbean. In signing the measure at the White House, Bush called it the "largest, single, up-front commitment in history for an international public health initiative involving a specific disease."
"Across Africa, this disease is filling graveyards and creating orphans and leaving millions in a desperate fight for their own lives," said the president, who announced the AIDS initiative during his January State of the Union speech. "They will not fight alone, because they will have the help and the friendship of the United States of America. America makes this commitment for a clear reason, directly rooted in our founding. We believe in the value and dignity of every human life."
Bush's action came only six days after the House of Representatives gave final approval to the legislation. The Senate approved the bill May 16.
The final version included two pro-family elements promoted by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other organizations. At least one-third of the funding is to go for abstinence-based programs. In addition, it includes a conscience clause protecting faith-based groups from being required to distribute condoms in order to receive aid.
ERLC President Richard Land said those measures in the legislation will help support "programs that work and don't violate pro-family and religious sensitivities."
The initiative will focus on twelve African and two Caribbean countries, Bush said. The program will provide HIV testing, fund abstinence education in schools, establish a network to deliver drugs, train healthcare workers, and care for people living with AIDS, as well as AIDS orphans, he said.
The program has the potential to prevent 7 million new HIV infections and to provide care for 10 million HIV patients and AIDS orphans in the next decade, the president said.
Bush said he plans to nominate a global AIDS coordinator soon to direct the initiative.
Congress still must appropriate funds for the program.
Nearly 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa — including 3 million under the age of fifteen — are HIV-positive or have AIDS out of a total of 42 million cases worldwide, according to UNAIDS, the United Nations joint program on the disease. Last year, 3.5 million new cases were reported and 2.4 million people died of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, UNAIDS reported.