True Love Waits International, a sub-group of LifeWay Christian Resources, has pledged to donate nearly $1 million to fund abstinence-only programs in Africa as part of the effort to control the spread of HIV. This announcement follows a study by the RAND Corporation which found that "HIV-positive 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 the virus that causes AIDS."
True Love Waits (TLW) provides resources for community leaders to utilize "positive peer pressure" to encourage "moral purity by adhering to biblical principles." The organization has funded programs throughout Africa and claims success in countries like Uganda where the infection rate has dropped from 30 percent to 6 percent since the TLW was introduced 13 years ago.
However, despite the optimistic tone of the article in Chinese Christian News, TLW has over-looked the findings of the RAND study which emphasized that although it found a coorelation between religion and safe sexual practices, it was not an endorsement of abstinence programs:
“These are some significant findings about the role of religiosity in the lives of people who are HIV-positive,” said Frank H. Galvan, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior with the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. “The next step is to find out how can we use this information in a way that can help lower the rate of spreading HIV to others.”
Religion remains a dominant force in America today, but the main focus of many faith communities is sexual abstinence, rather than examining how else religious beliefs may help to prevent the spread of HIV, Galvan said.
“This study suggests that there's a role for religious institutions to play in the fight against the spread of HIV,” Galvan said. “They have these core belief systems that do have a positive impact on the lives of people who are HIV-positive and who are sexually active. Religiosity is an untapped resource in the whole struggle against HIV and AIDS, and should be looked at more thoroughly.”