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True Love Waits in the Ghanzi District

True Love Waits True Love Waits in the Ghanzi District.

GHANZI - More than 2,000 young people in rural Botswana have pledged to remain sexually abstinent until marriage thanks to a program that uses life skills training, movies and music to encourage in- and out-of-school youth to wait for true love.  True Love Waits is a non-profit, nongovernmental project in the Ghanzi District supported by PEPFAR and others that focuses on abstinence as a means for young people staying HIV free.

"It goes without saying that a large number of people are getting infected with HIV daily, despite the heightened condom use promotion. Abstinence can do wonders in scaling down the rate of new infections," says the Rev. Jan Wessels, program coordinator of True Love Waits. Various churches in the Ghanzi District, an underserved district in western Botswana, initiated TLW in 2001 as a response to the HIV/AIDS scourge. In 2007, the non-profit organization reached more than 9,800 people.

The program reaches out to young people in schools and churches with testimonies and skills trainings on basic communication and assertiveness. TLW also holds music nights, abstinence weekends and helps form abstinence support groups in schools. On weekend nights, the group holds abstinence movie nights featuring shows that portray the negative effects of premarital sex including unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and complications in relationships. At the end of each event, TLW volunteers challenge the youth to sign a pledge card promising to remain abstinent until marriage. So far, about 2,500 youth have signed the pledge." We do it in hopes of keeping down the numbers of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections," says Sarah Parrish, a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer assigned to help build capacity in the organization. "Several of the youth in our support groups have gone on to college so we are very proud of that."

In September 2007, True Love Waits won the Botswana Vision 2016 award for an "educated and informed" nation. The show was featured on a national TV program called "Talk Back" to discuss abstinence and their role with other partners in Ghanzi.