CHASTITY programmes are beginning to slash the HIV rate in sonic of Africa's most Aids affected countries, a Catholic conference heard.
Irish Sr Miriam Duggan of the Franciscan Missionaries of Africa told The Great Jubilee and The Culture Of Life Conference in Cambridge that Uganda was the first country in Africa to register a significant drop in the spread of Aids.
Sr Miriam is now based in South Africa where the Youth Alive movement she founded promotes chastity among teens and has even influenced the policy of President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda.
She said: "I believe that the impact of Education For Life programmes,and the establishment of Youth Alive clubs and similar other church programmes focusing on behaviour and values have in no small way contributed to the fact that the prevalence rate for HIV infection in Uganda has fallen from 28.9 per cent to 9.8 per cent according to UN Aids figures for 1999, showing that Aids can be prevented."
Research at Makerere University, Kampala, in 1996, found that the Youth Alive programmes greatly reduced sexual activity of those who took part and encouraged a higher number of young people to abstain from premarital sex. Similar results had been achieved by Youth Alive in other countries such as Kenya and Zambia.
Sr Miriam said: "If the millions invested in Latex rubber as a prophylactic were invested instead in addressing the root causes, 1 think the outcome would be much more beneficial to society."
The conference also heard an appeal from a charity called Mater Care International, which is committed to reducing pen-natal deaths in the Third World and which urged delegates to use the internet to help to save lives.
For each hit on its "Lifesaver" site the charity, formed by British obstetrician Prof Bob Walley, gets nine Canadian cents towards safe mater nity care for women in Ghana.
"It is such a simple idea that the hunger site had, I thought why can't we do that in the Catholic Church — we could save the lives of countless mothers," said Prof Walley, who felt forced to quit the National Health Service because of his pro-life views and who is now Professor of Obstetrics at Memorial Hospital, Newfoundland, Canada.
"If every Catholic who is online — and that includes bishops and priests — clicked on our site every day just think what that could mean," he said, adding: "There is no catch and we have had to satisfy safeguards from the authorities."
The charity also launched a new project last week, headed by Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Bishop Carlos Belo, to build a new pro-life hospital for women in Dili, the capital of East Timor.
"The United Nations is not happy with us because they want to push their agenda of so-called "reproductive health" which we all know means abortion and artificial contraception," he said.