The International Bible Society (IBS) is using the life-changing power of scripture in the battle against the deadly HIV/AIDS virus. In 2004, IBS launched its scripture-based Reach 4 Life program in South Africa and has subsequently expanded it into other African countries, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the United States.
Behavioral change has been shown to be the most effective weapon against HIV/AIDS. Uganda’s abstinence-based program, which now serves as a model for countries around the world, is credited with reducing that country’s HIV prevalence from eighteen percent in the early 1990s to seven percent in 2005.
Combining Uganda’s successful approach with the power of God’s Word to change lives, IBS-South Africa developed the Reach 4 Life New Testament and built an HIV prevention program around its book. The program strives to reach young people by offering reasons why they should abstain from sex until marriage and live a positive, moral life. The young people then get tools that will help them succeed in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.
Colin Bishop, IBS-South Africa director, is passionate about helping stem the tide of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. “Reach 4 Life is designed to prevent the next generation of young people [from] catching the deadly HIV/AIDS virus and going to an early grave,”
The Reach 4 Life book contains the full IBS New International Version (NIV) New Testament plus 250 pages of straightforward notes in youth-friendly language, providing a holistic message of abstinence. It tackles issues such as sex, alcohol and drugs, and zeroes in on topics including promiscuity, pregnancy, and most specifically, HIV/AIDS. While the program warns youth about the risks of walking the “low road,” it positively calls teens to walk the “higher moral road,” as given in God’s Word.
In Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the United States, IBS and its dozens of ministry partners provide Reach 4 Life books to junior and senior high school-aged youth in schools (where allowed), churches, sports venues and other places where kids gather. In South Africa, where the program has been in place for two years, teachers and youth participate in Reach 4 Life clubs that offer further education and support for safe, God-honoring lifestyles.
IBS has received hundreds of testimonies from youth choosing to either remain or become abstinent as a direct result of their encounter with Reach 4 Life. Thabo Phati, coordinator of Into Africa Sports ministry, recently said of the program, “Reach 4 Life is great! It’s helping my ministry to South African youth because it makes the Bible relevant to current situations such as the huge problem we have with AIDS. The kids are reading the Bibles!”
This article was edited from a press release of the International Bible Society.