Step up fight against Aids

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LESOTHO on Tuesday joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Aids Day.
Lesotho has the world’s third highest HIV prevalence rate, according to figures from United Nations aid agencies.
There is no doubt that HIV/Aids has had a devastating impact on the lives of Basotho and continues to be a national emergency.
At least 270 000 people, about 23.2 percent of Lesotho’s 1.8 million people, are said to be living with HIV/Aids.
At least 300 000 children have been orphaned after losing either a parent or both to the pandemic. This represents a quarter of the country’s population affected by HIV/Aids.
Some aid agencies claim that at least 15 000 children are living with HIV in Lesotho, with only 3 000 of these being on anti-retroviral treatment.
Over 20 000 deaths, due to Aids, are reported every year.
Like the fearsome horsemen of the apocalypse, the disease appears to be on a relentless march, mowing down millions across the globe.
At least 2 million people are estimated to have died of Aids last year alone.
These are frightening statistics.
It is clear from these statistics that Lesotho needs to mobilise resources and step up the fight against the pandemic.
We also need to review the effectiveness of current programmes if we are to have a comprehensive national response to the disease.
We need to muster all the resources to fight the disease.
Without that national commitment, we are doomed as a nation.
With proper treatment and care most of the premature deaths attributed to Aids could have been prevented.
To its tribute, the government of Lesotho in conjunction with international relief agencies has done fairly well in handling the HIV/Aids crisis over the years.
As a result, at least 54 000 Basotho now have full access to life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs.
There are, however, challenges with reports suggesting that not everyone is at present able to access the ARVs.
But ensuring access to ARVs should be the last resort.
We need to promote strategies that reduce the sexual transmission of the disease in the first place.
We need to promote strategies that prevent the mother-to-child transmission of the virus that causes Aids.
For those unfortunate to have the virus, there must be universal access to life-prolonging drugs.
According to the UN Aids Epidemic Update for 2009, it is possible to drastically reduce new HIV infections among children and save lives.
The report says many programmes which focused on young people had failed to address the key determinants of vulnerability such as the inter-generational partnerships.
It also says fewer prevention programmes have specifically focused on older adults.
Tragically, frighteningly high infection rates are being reported among older heterosexual couples.
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was spot-on when he called for behaviour-change among Basotho to arrest the pandemic in Thaba-Tseka on Tuesday.
The reality on the ground would suggest that messages about having one single, faithful partner have fallen on deaf ears.
Information campaigns to push for behaviour change by non-governmental organisations and the Ministry of Health appear not to be having the desired results.
How else does one explain the increasing new infection rates?
The problem, in our opinion, is not lack of information. People are aware that having multiple sex partners poses a great danger to their health.
But in spite of these dangers, people continue to expose themselves to the disease.
We need programmes that empower young girls and help haul them off the streets.
We also need to deal with issues of stigma. Thousands of youths have stayed away from voluntary testing centres for fear of stigmatisation.
We need programmes to de-mystify the disease that Aids is just like any other disease.
The Aids pandemic presents the greatest national challenge for Lesotho.

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