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UN targets youths in HIV/AIDS fight


HIVMohalenyane Phakela

THE United Nations (UN) has injected M466 320 into a campaign which involves adolescents in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Lesotho.

Dubbed ‘All In’, the campaign unites various actors to accelerate the reduction of AIDS-related deaths and new HIV-infections among young Basotho by 2020, and ending the epidemic by 2030.

The initiative is administered by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The two agencies have mandated non-governmental organisation, Access Africa Initiative (AAI), with spearheading the campaign, set to be launched tomorrow in Maseru, Berea, Leribe and Mafeteng.

According to AAI Executive Director and co-founder, Hilary Dongo, the campaign has been necessitated by Lesotho’s high HIV-prevalence rate of 23 percent, which is the second-highest in the world behind Swaziland’s 26 percent.

Mr Dongo added the project would focus on adolescents at risk of HIV infection or AIDS-related deaths between the ages of 10 and 19 years. The campaign, Mr Dongo further noted, would engage, mobilise and empower adolescents as leaders and actors of social change.

“Our mission is to improve HIV-prevention techniques among adolescents, especially those still attending school,” Mr Dongo said.

“Through this project, we intend to engage high school students in the four lowland districts of Lesotho in activities that will enable them to open-up about how they would want to be involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“For instance, we will be asking them whether they would want to access condoms at school since some of them are already engaging in unprotected sex.”

According to Mr Dongo, AAI was working with the Education and Training ministry in the initiative.

“The campaign is expected to start on Monday (tomorrow) and run until 15 December 2015. And since schools are going to be closed at some point during this period, we have scheduled a number of activities to be held in places such as Thamae and Sea Point in Maseru, where  there would be a lot of teenagers,” Mr Dongo said.

“We also urge parents to support the initiative by talking to their children about sexual issues and make the effort of asking them what they were up to when they returned home from school.”

Mr Dongo added the campaign would hold radio programmes on sexual health hosted by presenters in the target age. According to Mr Dongo, the campaign would also identify 60 adolescents from different schools to train them on various HIV/AIDS related issues so they could pass on the information to their colleagues.

Mr Dongo said there would also be physical training activities in different communities to teach the youngsters the benefits of healthy living. He added the project would also tackle social and economic determinants of HIV-prevalence.

“We are not only looking at HIV/AIDS, but other aspects that affect teenagers such as drug and alcohol abuse. We will try to find out what makes them engage in those vices and what they think the solution could be,” Mr Dongo added.

“The information will be collated in the form of videos, since we will be recording everything. We will then submit our findings to such partners as PSI (Population Services International) because they  directly deal with such issues.”



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