Know­ing your sta­tus is key: King Letsie III

Lesotho Times - - News - Lim­pho Sello

King Letsie iii says one of the most ef­fec­tive weapons in the fight against HIV/Aids is test­ing for the virus to en­sure those in­fected ac­cess anti-retro­vi­ral treat­ment (ART) on time.

His Majesty made the re­marks in his key­note ad­dress dur­ing the 2014 World Aids Day com­mem­o­ra­tions held in Thaba-Bo­siu on Mon­day.

World Aids Day is marked an­nu­ally on 1 De­cem­ber to raise aware­ness about the deadly dis­ease.

“When Le­sotho marked World Aids Day in 2005, gov­ern­ment put strate­gic plans in place to fight the epi­demic, such as en­sur­ing ac­cess to anti-retro­vi­ral ther­apy, ini­ti­at­ing the know-your-sta­tus cam­paign and pro­vid­ing coun­selling ser­vices.

“This year’s theme, “Get­ting to Zero: Zero new HIV-in­fec­tions. Zero deaths from Aids-re­lated ill­ness. Zero dis­crim­i­na­tion”, moves us to­wards ex­am­in­ing th­ese strate­gic plans,” His Majesty said.

“We need to check whether they need to be re­viewed with the aim of clos­ing gaps where there are any.

“How­ever, I still be­lieve peo­ple need to get tested since, that way, they will eas­ily ac­cess help when they are sure of their HIV sta­tus.

“Only then can they be able to live their lives pos­i­tively while those who are free from it en­sure they re­main that way for the rest of their lives.

“It is an in­di­vid­ual’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to get tested and it’s only if we pro­tect our­selves from this dis­ease that we can de­feat it.

“Such vic­tory will help us reach our Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals as a coun­try of erad­i­cat­ing such epi­demics by 2015 among other tar­gets.

UNAIDS has also put new stan­dards that coun­tries must ob­serve by 2030 known as 90/90/90.

This sim­ply means out of 10 peo­ple, nine must be aware of their HIV sta­tus, and tak­ing their treat­ment in or­der to de­crease the un­de­tectable vi­ral load in their bod­ies.”

His Majesty fur­ther said the fact that Le­sotho now has the sec­ond high­est HIV preva­lence rate in the world at 23 per­cent, with Swazi­land first at 26 per­cent, should be cause for shame to Ba­sotho.

Un­til re­cently, Le­sotho was third be­hind Swazi­land and Botswana, but the sit­u­a­tion has since changed with Le­sotho swap­ping places with Botswana on the in­fa­mous ta­ble.

“This sit­u­a­tion says HIV in­fec­tions are in­creas­ing in Le­sotho and we should be ashamed since other coun­tries have achieved so much in the fight against the dis­ease.”

How­ever, His Majesty noted the Min­istry of Health’s re­open­ing of Queen El­iz­a­beth II Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal, last month, would go a long way to help fight the dis­ease since it used to pro­vide es­sen­tial ser­vices to HIV-pos­i­tive pa­tients be­fore its clo­sure in 2011.

“What we need to do is ef­fec­tively use ad­vice given by in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions and the Min­istry of Health to curb the virus,” His Majesty said.

On her part, Health Min­is­ter, Pinkie Manamolela, con­curred with His Majesty on the need to en­sure as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble know their HIV sta­tus.

“This year alone, we man­aged to get 122 693 peo­ple test for HIV, with 11 158 be­ing found pos­i­tive. We also found 38 096 new in­fec­tions this year, and 84 597 peo­ple were tested more than once,” Dr Manamolela said.

She fur­ther stated each dis­trict was given a spe­cific tar­get for peo­ple who should be tested.

The min­is­ter added: “The fig­ures show that there are 133 000 Ba­sotho who are on anti-retro­vi­ral ther­apy, while the United Na­tions stan­dard put for Le­sotho is to pro­vide 230 000 peo­ple with ART by 2015.

This shows we are be­hind by 97 000, so we need to work harder to meet the re­quired tar­get.”

In his ad­dress, the Amer­i­can Am­bas­sador to Le­sotho, Matthew Har­ring­ton, said in 2001 global lead­ers met and com­mit­ted to mo­bilise be­tween $7 bil­lion (M70 bil­lion) and $10 bil­lion an­nu­ally by 2005 to fight HIV and AIDS.

Am­bas­sador Har­ring­ton added with the launch of Global Fund, World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (WHO) ‘3 by 5’ ini­tia­tive in 2003 and US Gov­ern­ment’s Pres­i­dent’s Emer­gency Plan for AIDS Re­lief (PEPFAR) in 2008, the global re­sponse to the HIV pan­demic was born.

“Since then, due to our strong part­ner­ships and col­lec­tive ef­forts across the globe, new HIV in­fec­tions have dropped by half since the peak of the epi­demic, and life-ex­pectancy has re­bounded.

In sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, new HIV-in­fec­tions are down by onethird since 2005; Aids-re­lated deaths have de­clined by nearly 40 per­cent; and ac­cess to life­sav­ing HIV-treat­ment has in­creased more than forty-fold.

“We have made so much progress, so why then, 30 years after Dr Robert Gallo showed that HIV causes AIDS and 18 years after life-sav­ing treat­ment first be­came avail­able, have an es­ti­mated 26 000 Ba­sotho died from HIV/AIDS this year alone?” Am­bas­sador Har­ring­ton said.

“Le­sotho is do­ing so many things the right way in the fight against HIV. How­ever, at the same time, too many Ba­sotho con­tinue to die; too many chil­dren con­tinue to be born HIV-pos­i­tive, and too many fam­i­lies con­tinue to be dev­as­tated by this ter­ri­ble but man­age­able dis­ease.

“An AIDS-free gen­er­a­tion is within Le­sotho’s reach, but to get there, the coun­try must de­liver the right thing, in the right place, at the right time

.“The Amer­i­can peo­ple and the United States gov­ern­ment are long-stand­ing part­ners in Le­sotho’s fight against HIV/AIDS.

Since 2007, we have pro­vided more than $193 mil­lion to support Le­sotho’s re­sponse to the epi­demic.

This year, we will pro­vide an ad­di­tional $35 mil­lion through our bi­lat­eral pro­gramme.”

The hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency virus (HIV) is a lentivirus which causes the ac­quired im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency syn­drome (AIDS) — a con­di­tion in hu­mans in which pro­gres­sive fail­ure of the im­mune sys­tem al­lows life-threat­en­ing op­por­tunis­tic in­fec­tions and can­cers to thrive.

King Letsie iii lights a can­dle dur­ing World Aids Day com­mem­o­ra­tions held in Thaba- Bo­siu on Mon­day.

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