A NEW association, the Youth AIDS Free Foundation (YAFF) was recently launched in Maseru, in a development that is expected to enhance the fight against HIV/AIDS by young people in Lesotho.
The foundation is a brainchild of youths drawn from various tertiary institutions across the country and aims to strengthen awareness through various innovations targeting the youth.
“There are always new people entering various age groups such as adolescents and they need to understand HIV and AIDS through tools of communication that are easily accessible to them and in line with the current technological trends,” YAFF Advisor, Thabo Lethibelane said.
He said in this age of information technology, there was need to repackage HIV/AIDS information and ensure effective dissemination methods that can reach all young people.
The foundation will lead initiatives that will include creating platforms that will promote open dialogue among people aged from 13 to 30 years as this would allow those that are younger to learn from those that are mature, Mr Lethibelane said.
“HIV has affected every person in one way or the other. Everyone has a unique story to share which can be a source of inspiration and educate others on how they can overcome various challenges. It is one thing to know about HIV and another to be directly affected or infected.”
“At 25 percent, the HIV prevalence rate is high among people aged from 15 and 24. Another development that has changed the context of the HIV epidemic in most African countries, particularly among young people, is the fact that some young people living with HIV were infected before birth. These have different stories to tell, centering on resilience and their victory over the epidemic.
“We would like to become game-changers in the fight against HIV by providing solutions that are compatible with young people including those living in the rural areas. We need to ensure that our strategies reach our targeted audience and see behaviours change from risky to responsible,” Mr Lethibelane said.
The foundation, Mr Lethibelane said, will work closely with young people in various communities to establish community care projects that will help create an environment where it is safe for targeted groups to discuss and report gender-based violence, in addition to ensuring they access services such as counseling.
“Our vision of having organised community support and care for young people, including orphans and vulnerable children is at the heart of the Foundation. We would like to effectively deal with the underlying drivers of HIV, such as gender-based violence. We believe by creating actors within communities to support and sustain our mission can help us achieve real transformation. We are talking of creating young councilors, educators and role models who will provide support at all times,” Mr Lethibelane said.
Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. It is estimated that on average 17 000 people are infected with HIV every year while about 50 people die of HIV-related ailments every day.