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International News

In Southern Africa, Teen Abstinence Is "Cool"

August 7, 2002

"Abstinence. Ile che -- it's cool." The catchphrase "ile che" is making the rounds among young people in Zambia, in large part because of a program funded in part by the US Agency for International Development. The HEART campaign -- Helping Each Other Act Responsibly Together -- is sending out a strong abstinence message and promoting consistent condom use among youths to fight AIDS.

Though the condom message has roiled many in this largely Christian nation, evidence indicates that the multimedia campaign designed by young Zambians is helping young people delay sex and have fewer partners -- two key factors experts say could lead to lower infection rates. An estimated 20 percent of Zambians are diagnosed as HIV-positive, and an overwhelming number of them are ages 20 to 40.

Although 75 percent of Zambian youths are sexually active by age 19, HEART workers say the campaign is helping young people take the decision more seriously and be more responsible when they do have sex. HEART television commercials, radio music, and posters target those most at risk. The phrase "ile che" comes from a popular new song of the same name released to local radio stations by HEART. More than 50 percent of youths surveyed have seen the ads, and a substantial number have discussed them with friends or family, or say it affected their decision to abstain.

National statistics show that the number of new infections is stabilizing. HEART's $95,000 campaign, half of which is funded by Zambia's government, is a big part of the behavior changes in Zambia, according to Robert Clay, who directs HIV/AIDS programs for USAID.

Church leaders and politicians lauded HEART's abstinence messages, but denounced as indecent a television ad -- later pulled -- featuring two teenage girls encouraging their friend to tell her boyfriend, "no condom, no sex." They said it was indecent for young Zambian women to talk about sex on television.

Back to other CDC news for August 7, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Christian Science Monitor
08.01.02; Nicole Itano

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV Prevention in South Africa