History of UCE: Uganda

In 2003, Kim K. Dernovsek MD was the recipient of a grant to travel to Uganda, AFRICA for two purposes, one of which was to observe first-hand Uganda’s remarkable HIV-prevalence reduction strategy. This strategy, which involved behavior change, was of great interest to her since she had been lecturing nationally since 2001 regarding the importance of physicians reaching teens with an abstinence message in order to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). As a dermatologist, she was well aware of the failure of condoms to fully protect against STDs and the devastating effect contracting one had on a person’s life. Yet, the skeptical in her audiences would still question whether it was “realistic” that people could change their sexual behavior. The new American trend towards abstinence among teens certainly was a hopeful indication that they could.

Then came the landmark report to USAID, What Happened in Uganda?, which described how Uganda, AFRICA had reduced their HIV prevalence from 15% in 1991 to 5% in 2001. A later publication called this “the most significant decline of HIV prevalence of any country in the world” This country had changed the pre-existing sexual behavior patterns of early first intercourse and polygamy to healthy sexual behavior. Lives were being saved in Uganda, Africa. A developing-world country had done this? Dr. Dernovsek saw this as a “light shining from Uganda” and imagined the implications for world health if there was a simple, low-cost way to radically reduce HIV/AIDS infections. So, not knowing where following would lead, she and her husband, Kenneth D. Dernovsek, MD set off for a month in Uganda.

October 2003 was spent in Kampala, Uganda and traveling the country from west of Mbarara to east of Jinja, meeting and interacting with the Ugandans they encountered during their medical, recreational and spiritual activities. In attending worship services, Men’s Bible Study Fellowship and youth group meetings, they found the churches full, prayer exuberant, and faith alive. It was not long before they were approached by Ugandans who had themselves been and were continuing to be leaders in the grass-roots rural Ugandan effort via radio-waves, youth outreaches and educational events. They asked the Dernovseks: How could the Ugandan effort be kept strong? Were there really other people of faith, outside of Uganda, who would help the people of faith in Uganda to continue their message of “chastity” to their youth? Would they be encouraged and allowed to teach their youth in their unique Ugandan way rather than being required to adopt a non-Ugandan approach? Could monetary support be found? Do others care about whether Africa survives the HIV/AIDS pandemic enough to foster and expand the activities of the worlds’ greatest anti-AIDS strategy ever?

Stepping out with faith, the Dernovseks answered “yes” and Universal Chastity Education, Inc. (UCE) was born.

Be blessed… and join us in saving lives.