In an interesting development announced in Johannesburg this month, an American-based anti-aids initiative has joined hands with a major non-profit organisation in South Africa, to address the promiscuity issue among young people in Africa.
The so-called Silver Ring Thing (SRT) is America's fastest growing teenage abstinence programme, and has achieved unprecedented success in persuading young people to abstain from extra-marital copulation.
"Literally, the decision on whether or not to remain abstinent is a life or death one for most young Africans," noted Denny Pattyn, founder and president of SRT. "Our expansion to Africa is a natural outgrowth of SRT's success over the past four years; it has reached more than 32,000 young people in the U.S. in four years, and while we have more work to do in America, we feel compelled and called to do what we can to address the serious HIV/AIDS problem in Africa", he added.
During the past month, SRT (USA) welcomed a group from South Africa, to train for the first international roll-out of the programme, in partnership with "Turn the Tide" (TTT) South Africa. The goal of the partnership is to place rings on one million South African teenagers over the next three years, as TTT works to address the serious HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.
Regions such as Limpopo and Mpumalanga, where there are high rates of illiteracy, will be among the strategic regions targeted for educational programmes. TTT has confirmed that a staggering total of 25 million Aids sufferers live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Elvis Mvulane, South African director of TTT, who is a pastor in Soweto, says that the ring concept connected to an abstinence vow has found favour in his church in Soweto, with no new teenage pregnancies happening since he introduced the idea over a year ago.
According to Elvis, the SRT programme goes beyond awareness; the 3-hour programme entertains, educates and then calls for a new behavioural decision that is then reinforced with the ring - a daily reminder to the youth of their life-saving decision to remain abstinent.
"Because of unprecedented media coverage of the success of SRT in the last 12 months, we are now responding to an international demand for our programme. South Africa, of all places, will be our first official roll-out" said Pattyn.
By Dirk Nel