By Carlos Kambaekwa
In a bid to prevent the spread of HIV & AIDS, Namibia’s leading cyclists have ganged up to join the fight against the deadly pandemic.
The Bicycling Empowerment Network Namibia (BEN Namibia) teamed up with the Embassy of the United States of America to launch a new Namibian cycling team under the banner of Team Ben Namibia at a special function at the Nucleus Health & Fitness Club in the capital yesterday.
According to Ray Castillo, US Embassy Public Affairs Officer, Namibia needs this sort of innovative HIV/AIDS prevention outreach. “We are committed to assisting Team Ben in its pursuit of excellence and in spreading HIV/AIDS
prevention messages, promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging testing.”
Team Namibia will work to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, advocate prevention, encourage voluntary HIV/AIDS counselling and testing as well as promote healthy lifestyle choices, especially amongst the youth.
Know your HIV status, get fit, be focused and do sports not drugs are amongst a horde of messages the cyclists will convey to Namibian youth.
Team member Victor Nakalenga has been crushing the chains since the age of 15 and credits his interest in sport as the chief reason why he has kept a healthy distance from alcohol and drugs. Nakalenga and his fellow teammates are hopeful to change the mindset of many youngsters who have gone off the rails, the group striving to be role models for the Namibian youth.
The 7-member team BEN Namibia also aims to compete at the highest level in Namibia while promoting cycling to would-be cyclists.
The team successfully completed the gruelling Windhoek Power 2008 summer road series and after four months of tough competition, the cyclists finished with the top three positions in the elite men’s category.
The team will be engaged in live appearances under the theme “Spin for Life” tour with several events scheduled for Windhoek and the coastal and northern regions, showcasing their skill on exercise bikes, with screenings of bicycle racing DVD’s and lucky draw competitions at shopping centres, plus cultural and sporting events at youth clubs.
The group’s first public appearance will be on the 9th of next month, which will coincide with National Testing Day, when the organization will offer bicycles as incentives for people to get tested for HIV at mobile testing centres around the capital in partnership with the New Start centres.