Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Uganda Takes Up Abstinence Campaign
Activists say the nation's shift away from encouraging condom use threatens one of the world's most successful anti-AIDS programs.
By Edmund Sanders, Times Staff Writer

KAMPALA, Uganda — It's Saturday night at Makerere University and the "abstinence party" is in full swing around the campus swimming pool.

More than a thousand young men and women sway to the reggae sounds of local musicians and singers. Some dance. A few flirt. But the sexual tension ends there. At night's end, hundreds sign pledge cards vowing to shun sex until marriage.

We're waiting," says Sylvia Moos Muzaale, 25, a smiling library sciences major seated next to her boyfriend of three years. He gives a shrug that suggests he's less comfortable with the decision, but says nothing.

The weekly bash is part of a burgeoning anti-AIDS campaign in this East African nation, where virginity is fast becoming a national obsession.

Billboards with the logo "Abstinence: You Can!" dot the capital's streets, encouraging men to search for virgins. "Somewhere out there," one giant poster reads, "she's keeping herself for you." A member of Parliament is offering scholarships for young women who undergo gynecological exams to prove their chastity.
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