Ugandan runners have been hit by a major health scare after it emerged that a coach accused of sexually abusing young athletes was infected with HIV.
There are fears the virus, which can lead to AIDS, may have been spread further among other runners due to promiscuity among the athletes, and one of the east African nation’s top sportsman is calling for widespread testing.
“Many of our colleagues must be infected,” Commonwealth Gold medallist Moses Kipsiro was quoted as saying by the Daily Monitor newspaper. “God should have mercy on us.”
Uganda, an emerging athletics power that has been trying to take on traditional regional rivals Kenya and Ethiopia, was hit by an athletics sex abuse scandal nearly a year ago.
It broke after 28-year-old Kipsiro relayed complaints from his female teammates against a national coach Peter Wemali, who is alleged to have told some of the female runners to have sex with him in order to perform better.
Wemali has since been charged with sexual abuse, and last week Ugandan media said court documents had revealed he was also HIV positive.
“I know of many senior male runners who have unknowingly shared girlfriends with Mr. Wemali. Some are even married to runners that once had affairs with him,” Kipsiro said.
The Daily Monitor said three underage female runners are also feared to have been infected by the coach, while three other runners have filed complaints with the police and will undergoing tests this week.
“The numbers (of infected) could be very high. It’s very worrying,” Tunde Musawo, a sports officer from Kapchorwa district where the training camp abuse allegedly took place, also told the paper.
Kipsiro said widespread testing was now necessary.
“I am going to mobilise the elders to meet with all athletes and ask them to test for HIV. It’s then that we will know the extent of the problem and see how to help the infected ones,” he said.
Last month Kipsiro, who regularly trains with Britain’s Mo Farah, says he may have to flee the east African country after receiving threats stemming from his decision to speak out against the abuse.