Moses Masha Kitembele of Maruapula in Gaborone, who considers himself a catalyst of change, aims to create an HIV-free generation through "35.2 Million Reasons To Stand Together," which is the funky name of his group.
"I saw how ignorant people were about HIV/AIDS on and off social networks where many brag about their sexual exploits," Kitimbele says. "I felt the urge to do something to educate people and at the same time spearhead a war against stigma and discrimination."
This young father of two says the idea of creating a group against HIV/AIDS first hit him in November last year. "I eventually created the group on January 16 and asked for help from my Facebook friends," he says. The name of the group was inspired by the revelation on World Aids Day last year that there are 35.2 million people living with HIV/Aids in the world. "The numbers of people who lost their lives to AIDS are shocking," Kitimbele notes. "So I decided to name the group 35.2 Million Reasons to Stand Together because of that piece of vital information."
He says the group is about bringing young people together to talk about HIV/AIDS, to teach one another and to explore means of tackling discrimination against people living with HIV.
"People hardly talk openly about their HIV status because of the fear of becoming outcasts in their own communities," he explains. "I believe the only way to create an HIV-free generation is to eliminate core problems like discrimination."
The target audience is young people, between the ages of 15 and 29 years that Kitimbele says are the most infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. The
group joins two others on Facebook that it aims to work hand-in-hand with, namely, Dealing With Abuse and Depression and Stop Woman and Child Abuse.
The group already has 850 members and is growing daily. Apart from the founder, the group has six administrators in Tebogo Molefe, Sekai Thato Segobye, Segolame Mabena, Tebogo Dube, Fikile Mabula and Benjamin Kesenyang.
The group is proud to have a renowned actor as a member, Tefo, who stars in the Btv soapie, Morwalela.
Kitembele says they hope to attract more celebrities to help spread the message across the country. And in case you were wondering about the ultimate membership size, 35.2 million comes the answer from Kitimbele!
"Our era is a technological era and Facebook is growing daily." He changes the subject after making that point. "I saw it fit to start the fight there. The idea is also to emphasise the fact that the fight against HIV/AIDS is not only for the infected but is for every living human being because if not infected, you are affected."
The group is slowly turning into a physical club. Kitimbele says registration is ongoing and proposals being written for the group to acquire sponsorships. It held its first public meeting at Maruapula Secondary School on February 18.
People from different walks of life and experts in different fields have expressed an interest in the group and made pledges of financial assistance to come through once it is officially registered.
"We are currently trying to record a theme song for the fight against HIV/AIDS and have already attracted a number of big names in the music industry," the founder enthuses.