Saturday, October 25, 2008

Keynote Address by His Excellency Mr. Festus G. Mogae at the Second Annual Youth Against AIDS (YAA) Awards Dinner

source: Republic of Botswana (25/10/08): TAUTONA TIMES no 33 of 2008
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President "Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


[Salutations]... Ladies and Gentlemen Good Evening!

1. It is indeed a pleasure to be among young people who have dedicated themselves to increasing awareness of the dangers of HIV and AIDS. It is commendable because young people are the most vulnerable. We have lost many of them since the first AIDS case was diagnosed in Botswana in 1985.

2. Your activism to bring about behaviour change amongst the youth is therefore the right thing to do. I am informed that through these awards Tebelopele Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre acknowledges the outstanding commitment and dedication of young people who have done exceptional works in HIV prevention amongst the youth through empowerment and development.

3. It is a welcome arrangement that this initiative led by Tebelopele is spearheaded by the youth and anchored on volunteerism. The future of Botswana as a nation will depend on our young people taking responsibility in protecting themselves against HIV and AIDS. It is therefore progressive that as young people you are volunteering your time and energy to do something that is critical to the future of this nation.

4. Through this programme you are grooming leaders and encouraging young people to support their peers in their prevention strategies through counselling and addressing issues that could act as barriers to the prevention of HIV and AIDS amongst youth. You are targeting the right groups of the youth - in-school adolescents aged 14 to 20 years and out-of-school young adults aged 21 to 24 years.

5. As chairperson of the National AIDS Council, I am proud that you encourage young people to seek counselling-based prevention as well as to know their HIV-status. Knowing your status is essential in the campaign against HIV and AIDS. Prevention should be your focus as you expose young people to accurate and relevant information which will enable them to make informed decisions about their lives.

6. The youth should be empowered to address issues of their sexuality and HIV and AIDS prevention. With adequate support they can lead the struggle against HIV and AIDS. We should intensify our campaign for prevention, especially if we are to achieve our goal of no new infections by 2016 and therefore an AIDS-free generation. We commend Tebelopele for this wonderful work.

7. As part of the process of empowerment, I urge organisations that focus on the youth and HIV to involve them in the planning and implementation of their programmes. This will build confidence, buy-in and ensure success.

8. I note with satisfaction that you are partnering with important stakeholders such as Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and other professional bodies and organisation involved in education, sports, music and fashion. I appeal to others who are not yet involved to come on board and assist you.

9. Let me conclude by cautioning our young people against risky behaviours such as alcohol and substance abuse. Take charge of your lives and assist your peers because you are the future of this nation. Leadership is a big challenge which calls for team-work, discipline and Botho. It takes commitment and sacrifice to be a leader and you should be willing to pay the price.

10. I encourage you to make use of the networks that you are building to spread the message of prevention. I commend you for your efforts and encourage you to soldier on because the battle against HIV and AIDS is far from being won. I thank you!

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