HIV/AIDS a re­al­ity of our present

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

AS Le­sotho joins the rest of the world in com­mem­o­rat­ing World Aids Day on Mon­day, it is dis­con­cert­ing to note that the scourge is nowhere near de­feated, but is con­tin­u­ing to wreak havoc in our so­ci­ety.

The World UNAIDS 2014 re­port states that in 2013 alone, there were 26 000 new HIV in­fec­tions and with the cur­rent rate of new in­fec­tions Le­sotho is on its way to over­tak­ing Swazi­land as num­ber one in terms of HIV preva­lence.

We all stand guilty, as a na­tion, of get­ting pre­oc­cu­pied with the go­ings on in our body politic at the ex­pense of fun­da­men­tal is­sues such as our health and ser­vice de­liv­ery sys­tems.

Among the plethora of rea­sons the dis­ease is un­der­go­ing another resur­gence is the glam­or­i­sa­tion of amorous ac­tiv­i­ties such as the phe­nom­e­non of “Ben-10s” whereby young men and women have un­pro­tected sex with older peo­ple spurred by fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives.

For some sec­tions of our so­ci­ety, it has be­come fash­ion­able to be pro­mis­cu­ous de­spite mes­sages dis­sem­i­nated ad nau­seam about the per­ils of un­pro­tected sex.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Health’s Dis­ease Con­trol Depart­ment Psy­chol­o­gist, ’Moelo Sehlabaka-ramahlele, the strides made in treat­ment whereby those with the dis­ease are no longer eas­ily seen to be ill, have in­ad­ver­tently fos­tered a care­free at­ti­tude re­sult­ing in the dis­ease spread­ing even fur­ther.

As a re­sult, she says, peo­ple are no longer afraid of the dis­ease and are not chang­ing their be­hav­iour.

While the gov­ern­ment de­serves commendation for ini­tia­tives made so far to pre­vent and man­age the HIV/AIDS pan­demic –– such as im­me­di­ate treat­ment for those who test pos­i­tive and pro­vid­ing treat­ment to pre­vent in­fec­tion from an Hiv-pos­i­tive mother to her baby –– the up­ward spike in in­fec­tions is a clear in­di­ca­tor that a lot more needs to be done.

The Global Aids Progress re­port iden­ti­fied 12 groups of peo­ple be­ing left be­hind in HIV and Aids ed­u­ca­tion, thereby ac­cel­er­at­ing the spread.

Th­ese groups in­clude peo­ple liv­ing with HIV, ado­les­cent girls and young women, pris­on­ers, mi­grants, peo­ple who in­ject them­selves with nar­cotic drugs, sex work­ers, gay men and other men who have sex with oth­ers, trans­gen­der women and men, chil­dren and preg­nant women liv­ing with HIV, dis­placed per­sons, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and peo­ple aged 50 years and above.`

Gross eco­nomic in­equal­ity and cor­rup­tion are also con­tribut­ing to the spread of HIV/AIDS as stud­ies have shown ex­treme poverty, as preva­lent in Le­sotho, stim­u­lates risky be­hav­iours that are re­spon­si­ble for HIV trans­mis­sion, cre­ate ob­sta­cles to preven­tion, and im­pede ef­forts to cope with the im­pact of the epi­demic.

Poverty and food in­se­cu­rity are thought to in­crease sex­ual risk tak­ing, par­tic­u­larly among women who may en­gage in trans­ac­tional sex to pro­cure food for them­selves and their chil­dren. It is no won­der that the “Ben 10” phe­nom­e­non has taken hold.

It is clear that the in­com­ing gov­ern­ment, post the Fe­bru­ary 2015 elec­tion, has a mam­moth task ahead of it. How­ever, what­ever gov­ern­ment will be in­stalled will nei­ther have the means nor mech­a­nisms to scale the pan­demic back in an ef­fec­tive man­ner.

The dys­func­tion that has char­ac­terised this coun­try’s pol­i­tics in the pre­ced­ing years has to come to an end if there is even an inkling of hope to turn the tide against HIV/AIDS.

The me­dia and other so­cial in­sti­tu­tions have a piv­otal role to play in bring­ing be­havioural is­sues back on the agenda.

We have all slack­ened un­der the er­ro­neous as­sump­tion the HIV/AIDS is now a thing of the past when it still re­mains a part of our present and may re­main so un­til con­crete ac­tion is made.

Merely com­mem­o­rat­ing World Aids Day will not re­duce the in­fec­tion and mor­tal­ity rates but a mul­ti­pronged ap­proach which tack­les the causative fac­tors for the dis­ease’s preva­lence.

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