TWENTY KwaZulu-Natal youths have begun a "long walk for abstinence" as part of their message to stem the spread of HIV-Aids.
The 160km walk, under the auspices of the eThekwini Community Church, began on Monday from KwaDukuza on the North Coast. It ends on tomorrow in Dundee, in the north of the province.
Participants walk an average 40km a day and sleep for the night in accommodation made available by communities along the way.
Led by Vusi Dube, the popular Durban pastor, the campaign, established by the church in 2004, advocates sex "only after marriage" to bring down the number of young people dying of Aids-related illnesses.
Delani Makhaye, 27, one of the participants, said: "I support the campaign because it can help save lives.
"We have forgotten our cultural values. In the old days abstinence before marriage was an important practice.
"I practice what I preach and it works for me."
Pastor Dube said the idea of an abstinence walk came after they realised that almost all campaigns were about encouraging people "to condomise" - and not about abstinence.
"During the walk we also highlight the dangers of using drugs and how they contribute to women abuse andteenage pregnancies.
"We target mostly schools and over the years, judging by the response from the schools that we have stopped at," Dube said.
"The teachers report that the pregnancy rates at their schools had dropped dramatically and invite us to come back." .
He said it was encouraging that large numbers of youth from each town they pass through often swell their ranks by enthusiastically joining in the walk.