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Posted 8/13/03

True Love Waits program in East Africa
encouraged by Bush commitment

By Clinton Wolf

International Mission Board

ENTEBBE, Uganda (BP)–Baptists working with the True Love Waits program in East Africa are encouraged following President Bush’s commitment to U.S. support of abstinence-based programs in the war on AIDS.

Such programs headed the president’s list as he outlined a strategy for battling the spread of the AIDS virus in Africa and around the world.

"We will work with governments and private groups and faith-based organizations to put in place a comprehensive system to prevent, to diagnose and to treat AIDS," Bush told an audience of about 100 during his visit to Uganda this summer as part of a five-country visit to Africa.

President Bush told reporters July 30 that he believes in the "sanctity" of traditional marriage and believes it should be protected by law. (BP Photo)

"We will support abstinence-based education for young people in schools and churches and community centers."

Bush’s comments were made following a visit to a clinic in Entebbe, less than 10 minutes from the airport where his plane landed.

Noting the success of Uganda’s triple emphasis on abstinence, marital fidelity and the use of condoms, Bush commended the country as a model for AIDS treatment across the continent. More than 30 million people in Africa live with the AIDS virus, but in Uganda the infection rate of the disease–how fast it is spreading to others–has fallen from 30 percent to 5 percent since the early 1990s.

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Andrew Mwenge, senior pastor of Kampala Baptist Church in Kampala, Uganda, and longtime volunteer with True Love Waits, believes the president’s comments will increase the credibility of True Love Waits’ focus on abstinence. Although True Love Waits has been in Uganda since 1994, Mwenge believes the program often has been sidelined by agencies.

"The money is here, but the problem is sometimes getting to it," Mwenge said. "I think we will have a better hearing. This has brought it to the forefront."

Mwenge and his staff already have been at work on proposals to fund True Love Waits in its next phase, taking the message of abstinence until marriage to teacher-training colleges.

In neighboring Kenya, staff at the Baptist AIDS Response Agency–a joint effort between the Baptist Convention of Kenya and the International Mission Board’s Baptist Mission of Kenya–were equally encouraged by the president’s support.

Debby Marshall, strategy consultant for AIDS work in Kenya, noted that the True Love Waits program has faced challenges in obtaining funding because of its insistence on abstinence, rather than the use of condoms. Marshall said she hopes the president’s support of abstinence-based programs will ease some of this difficulty.

"I’m very hopeful," Marshall said. "It’s encouraging because abstinence is biblically based, and the president is supporting something from a biblical perspective, not a secular perspective."

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