Anti-AIDS programme working with the youth
Saturday 28 August 2004
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LESOTHO: Anti-AIDS programme working with the youth

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Mamokete Lemphane, a member of the Mokhotlong Youth Network spreading HIV/AIDS awareness

JOHANNESBURG, 10 March (PLUSNEWS) - Mamokete Lemphane is used to being driven out of homes, insulted and abused - all in the cause of fighting HIV/AIDS in the northeastern Mokhotlong district of Lesotho.

"When I used to visit houses in the villages and start talking about HIV/AIDS, people often pushed me out of their homes and abused me. Now I know better - I start by talking about general good health tips," a giggling Lemphane explained.

The 22-year-old is a member of the Mokhotlong Youth Network, which seeks to spread awareness of the disease among villagers.

Lemphane helps to man the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)'s youth centre, opened under the auspices of the UN's Southern African Youth (SAY) projects on AIDS in the town of Mokhtolong. The centre operates out of a container, which houses computers and educational games.

"I am proud of what I do," she said. A volunteer worker, Lemphane supports her family of two siblings and a mother by providing hair-braiding services, and still finds time to open the centre daily. There are 20 other young volunteers who also conduct regular HIV/AIDS door-to-door outreach programmes in the surrounding villages and provide computer training to those who visit the centre.

The SAY projects were launched in 2002 in Lesotho, where 27,000 children up to the age of 14 are infected with HIV - adolescents, aged 10 to 19 years, constitute 25 percent of the population. According to UNICEF, HIV/AIDS prevalence has reached 51 percent among Basotho women aged between 15 and 24.

Yuki Suehiro, assistant programme officer with UNICEF in Lesotho, said the task of her organisation, through the SAY projects, was to teach the youth life skills by using the multipurpose centres, which not only provide recreational facilities but develop social skills and improve basic education, all focused on AIDS awareness.

"Adolescents in Lesotho have limited access to basic social services and many are unemployed and out of school, with little recreation opportunities," Suehiro said. Since the launch of the project two years ago, UNICEF had managed to establish youth networks in two districts - Mokhtolong and the capital, Maseru.

"We have not been as successful in Maseru as we have been in Mokhotlong, where the government-run district youth office and the local traditional chief have been extremely supportive," Suehiro said. "We are in talks with the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association, which has constructed a brand new youth centre in Maseru."

UNICEF has branched out to other provinces and are getting involved in existing youth centres, like the one in the district of Mohale's Hoek in southern Lesotho. The centre, established by the Selibeng Youth Association, was in need of a basketball court, which UNICEF constructed under the auspices of the SAY projects.

"We help to teach sports-based life skills through basketball. The youth acquire leadership skills, team building and reproductive health education through sports - it is one of our successful projects," Suehiro said.

The World Health Organisation's contribution to the SAY projects has also been positive, she said. The agency has set up adolescent health corners in several hospitals across the country, where assistance is provided to teenage mothers, and there are games and videos on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases in the waiting rooms.

The UN agencies have been working closely with Lesotho's Ministry of Gender and Youth. Nthabeleng Lepholisa, the principal executive officer in charge of youth district officers said the government, inspired by the UN initiative, had decided to build its own multipurpose centres across the country.

The ministry has trained 35 youth and sports officers, and 60 youth volunteers, who will all be involved in programmes imparting life skills education and helping young people to make informed decisions in the context of HIV/AIDS.


Recent LESOTHO Reports
First health centre to distribute ART opened,  10/May/04
HIV/AIDS testing facilities still to be set up,  9/Mar/04
Govt moves to tackle AIDS pandemic,  8/Mar/04
New laws to strengthen HIV/AIDS action,  12/Feb/04
Testing times for rural households,  11/Feb/04
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:

  • IRIN
  • Inter Press Service (IPS)
  • Health Systems Trust
  • Health & Development Networks
  • GTZ/Afronets

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