An investigation of Christians' attitudes on the practice of virginity testing as a means of preventing HIV infection with specific reference to Methodists members in Pietermaritzburg and Howick Circuit.
The HIV and AIDS pandemic remains a challenge given that there is no cure, despite claims by some practitioners that a cure exists. In the absence of a cure, prevention methods are critical to reducing rates of infection such as the use of condoms. For many, these prevention methods have failed and there are calls for cultural interventions including Virginity Testing (VT). The fact that only girls are tested and not boys indicates a gender issue, although the researcher is writing from a pastoral perspective of the practice. In Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, some Zulus have revived the culture of virginity testing for girls. As a Zulu woman who has lived in Pietermaritzburg for eight years, the researcher has witnessed these events recurring every year in Zululand. The researcherhas alsoobserved that the Church has been rather silent about this prevention method – unlike the use of condoms, where the voiceof the Church has been clear. Since this study focuses on The Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA), Wesley’s theories of social ethics are used and integrated from a pastoral care perspective. This study examines the stance of Christians on the cultural ritual of VT which is currently regarded as an HIV infection prevention method. The focus is on members of the Methodist Church residing withinthePietermaritzburg and Howick Circuits, respectively. The central focus of this research project is concentrated on investigating the attitudes of members of the Pietermaritzburg and Howick circuit regarding the practice of VT as a means of preventing HIV infection. The thesis gives the socio-cultural and historical background of VT among the Zulus with regard to its history and purpose. It also provides an analysis of the attitudes of church members towards the practice of VT. There is a need for all Methodists to familiarize themselves with the teaching of their church on this issue in order for them to respond critically to the challenge to participate in VT practices, or to give guidance on how to go about this. Hence, this dissertation places emphasise on pastoral guidance relating to the the practice of VT. The practice is a sexually related issue and sexuality is not often discussed in the church, This paper also calls for the Theology of sexuality.