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Swaziland's king Mswati III has abandoned an unpopular HIV-prevention campaign that urges girls in the country to remain virgins, The Independent reports. The campaign was launched in 2001 and urged unmarried girls to adopt an ancient tradition called umcwasho--or badge of the virgin--and remain virgins for five years. The girls participating in the campaign wore traditional tassels to signify their virginity. If men attempted to have sex with them, they were required to throw the tassels at the man's family's home, at which point his family would be required to pay a fine of one cow to the girl's family.
After Mswati's announcement that the campaign was ending, thousands of young women removed their tassels at a ceremony at the royal compound in Ludzidzini and will burn the tassels at another ceremony later this week.
A new report shows that 29% of the teenagers in Swaziland are HIV-positive. The study, conducted by the nation's health ministry, also shows that more than 40% of all adults in the nation are HIV-positive. When HIV-positive children are included in the tally, about 480,000 of the nation's 1 million population are believed to be infected with HIV.