By Surihe Gaomas KATIMA MULILO Traditional leaders and senior councillors in the Caprivi Region are calling for proper cultural training for girls to curb the increasing levels of HIV/Aids in the region. This means that girls should be encouraged to go back to their cultural roots regarding how they should behave when they become mature disciplined women. This sentiment came to light when the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Doreen Sioka paid a courtesy visit on the Mayuni Tribal Authority recently. Currently, the Caprivi is said to be the hardest hit by HIV in the country, standing at the highest of a 40 percent infection rate. This means that more than four in 10 people are HIV-positive with the majority being the economically active group. Expressing concern about the devastating incidence of the disease especially amongst the youth, Chief Joseph Tembwe of the Mayuni Tribal Authority said the HIV/Aids situation is a serious problem that mostly targets young people in the communities. It turns out that most of the youngsters leave their villagers for better opportunities in the city and nearby towns against their parents’ wishes. Ultimately, most of them end up being infected with HIV and when the Aids symptoms begin to show, they come back to their rural homes. In an effort to curb the spread of the pandemic, Chief Tembwe together with his senior headman encouraged their community members to refrain from unprotected sex. He also appealed to them to seek to know their HIV status by going to the nearest voluntary counselling and testing New Start Centres in the area. “Our request to them is please not to stay without knowing their HIV status. We are telling them not to just grab any man or woman who is passing by, but first to go for the HIV test to see whether they are both healthy. This killer disease is just cleaning up our people and it’s a very big problem,” explained Chief Mayuni. He added that an HIV test is crucial before marriage, after which love and relationships should come second. Echoing the chief’s sentiments, senior councillors added that the time has come for young people especially girls to be trained culturally on living a responsible lifestyle, as opposed to the don’t-care attitude to life. “Women and young girls have to be trained traditionally before they reach an age of maturity, especially when it comes to marriage and long-term relationships,” said one senior councillor, adding that the same principle should also apply to young men. “The boys have gone out of our hands and if we want to guide them or discipline them as elders they go to the police to open a case against us. “These children are really getting out of hand and they should know their traditional beliefs and cultures so that they can survive the HIV/Aids pandemic,” said another senior headman. Seeing that the Caprivi is a border region to four neighbouring countries, namely Angola, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, young schoolgirls fall prey to truck drivers that pass through the area. Hence the traditional leadership cited money as another contributing factor to the high HIV infection rate. “The truck drivers come and pick up young girls and take them to Windhoek and other places. The girls are just picking up marriage from the street without even knowing the person. They just get married like chickens and dogs and when they get infected, they come back when it’s too late,” lamented another traditional councillor. At the same occasion, Member of Parliament Dr Moses Amweelo informed the traditional leaders that due to the high threat of HIV/Aids generally in the country, plans are under way to look into establishing an 8th Parliamentary Standing Committee on HIV/Aids. Currently there are seven Parliamentary Standing Committees.