MASERU –– With a prevalence rate of 23.2 percent, Lesotho is one of the countries most affected by HIV and Aids in the world. It is estimated one in three of young adults has the disease.
It’s a situation the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission are trying to help address. Last October, the LSRC introduced an HIV and Aids project, driven by a sub-committee, to implement responses to HIV and Aids through sport.
“We realised that such a program was much needed,” Neo Ramahong, administrator of the HIV and Aids project, told the Lesotho Times this week.
As part of the programme, an HIV and Aids Training of Trainers course was held in Butha-Buthe last week.
The aim of the week-long tutorial was to familiarise Lesotho’s sports directors with HIV and Aids issues and help fight any misconceptions towards the disease.
“Aids is a big killer in the country – we need to equip our sports leaders with the expertise needed to deal with the disease,” Ramahong said. “The course went well but more is needed.”
The LSRC has 32 registered affiliates, however only 23 were present at the course. Amongst the sporting disciplines represented at the workshop were football, athletics, tennis, swimming and cricket.
Ramahong said while the failure of some associations to attend was a set-back, he remained upbeat about the project’s progress.
“We have started to introduce the programmes we need to put into practice,” Ramahong insisted. “Sport can change many things, and its high time we instil this knowledge into our sportspeople. They are in the public domain and their message is heard by many. They can have a huge impact in the fight against Aids.”
The Aids project has been allocated M1 million each year by the National Aids Commission.
“This is a long-term project and the understanding is that we will keep the ball rolling,” Ramahong said.
“Education is a continuous process. We have to continue with the work on the ground. We expect those who have been trained to go out and educate people in their respective fields,” he added. “We will hold rallies each month, and we want to spread our message at other sporting events.”
“We want to create role models that will be known for the good that they do. HIV is affecting those young people that we thought would take the country forward,” Ramahong said.
“If we don’t do this then we will lose many athletes. Even though we don’t have the numbers it is clear that we have lost a lot of talent because of this disease. Even those who are playing now we have to make sure that we keep them from being affected.”
“And to do so we need to be in partnership with our sports association,” he said.