Faith-based HIV Prevention Working

By February 16, 2007

Africa (MNN) — An HIV prevention program in Africa is hoping to reach 20,000 youth this year.  Reach4Life is a discipleship focused program that is sponsored by World Hope International

A growing concern in Africa is that half of all new HIV cases are in youth, or those between the ages 15 and 25.  In Swaziland the prevalence of HIV is 45%.  It is one of the five countries that Reach4Life is currently working in.  While it varies greatly by country, the average HIV rate is 15%.

The greatest barrier that similar programs have found is that people do not want to listen to messages telling them how to live their life.  The difference in this program is that it is based on discipleship and the New Testament; a faith bases approach to prevention.  "It introduces youth to the personal Jesus and just his mission, and talks about issues that youth are dealing with," said Megan Nygyforchyn-Clark of Reach4Life. "It makes the Bible, for youth that maybe have not been exposed to it, relevant to the issues that youth are struggling with."

It is school based and includes 40 lessons over 40 weeks that cover sexuality, drugs and alcohol, poverty, self-image, dating, and pressure from work and school.

Reach4Life is currently working on research on their pilot programs in South Africa and Zambia
to see how attitudes have shifted.  "In Africa there is more of a receptiveness to spiritual based programs" said Nygyforchyn-Clark. "There is a value in having the
combination of looking at how spirituality effects their behaviors."  The response has been overwhelming even though many people are not coming from a Christian perspective.  So far, they are receiving testimonials of how the program has helped. 

The Christian community is often afraid to touch on these issues, but is seeing this approach work and becoming open to it.  Nygyforchyn-Clark said she believes that is part of why the program has been well received.

In the future, Reach4Life hopes to create clubs for youth like the one they have already begun in Zambia.  This would create an on-going presence in the surrounding areas.

If you would like to donate, $10 will reach one child and includes weekly discipleship and extracurricular activities.  "In Some settings we are doing sports tournaments and poetry contests, things that will engage the larger community," said Nygyforchyn-Clark.  Another option is to support an entire school, which allows you to follow up on exactly how the program is affecting an entire group of youth.

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