HIV rate shocker

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

LE­SOTHO’S Hiv-preva­lence rate has in­creased from 23 per­cent to 25 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the De­mo­graphic and Health Sur­vey (DHS) re­port re­leased yes­ter­day.

“Twenty-five per­cent of adults age 15-49 in Le­sotho are in­fected with HIV. In both 2004 and 2009, the HIV preva­lence rate for adults was slightly less — 23 per­cent,” reads the re­port.

The re­port fur­ther notes the Hiv-preva­lence rate is 30 per­cent among women and 19 per­cent among men, with Maseru top­ping all the dis­tricts at 28 per­cent.

“Over­all, 35 per­cent of cou­ples have at least one part­ner with HIV. In 20 per­cent of cou­ples, both part­ners are Hiv-pos­i­tive.

“Fif­teen-per­cent of cou­ples are dis­cor­dant, that is, one part­ner is Hiv-pos­i­tive and the other HIVneg­a­tive,” the re­port adds.

Health Min­is­ter Dr Monya­mane last night said the num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing with HIV had now in­creased, but al­layed the na­tion’s fears.

“We shouldn’t worry about the preva­lence rate be­cause we are putting more peo­ple on treat­ment.

“In fact, this preva­lence of 25 per­cent is a good thing. It means peo­ple liv­ing with HIV are now more; they are not dy­ing.

“Once you test pos­i­tive, you will al­ways be pos­i­tive. What should worry us are new in­fec­tions,” Dr Monya­mane said.

“How­ever, if you look at the in­ci­dence rate among key pop­u­la­tions, the num­bers are shock­ing and we must ini­ti­ate be­hav­ioral change pro­grammes to con­trol these num­bers.

“You look at the preva­lence rate among sex work­ers, it is shock­ing be­cause you will find out some men buy­ing sex from these ladies con­tinue to in­fect these ladies be­cause they don’t want to use pro­tec­tion.”

Ad­dress­ing jour­nal­ists yes­ter­day, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing said although med­i­cal doc­tors were try­ing to down­play these find­ings, he was in­creas­ingly get­ting un­com­fort­able.

“It is es­ti­mated that Le­sotho’s new Hiv-in­fec­tions are 52 per day while Aids-re­lated deaths are 26 per day. This is not a good sign at all. I am now told that the Min­istry of Health has re­leased a new re­port stat­ing that Le­sotho’s preva­lence rate is now 25 per­cent.

“Sup­pose Swazi­land, which is

num­ber one in the world (at 26 per­cent) has per­formed bet­ter and their preva­lence rate has de­creased, Le­sotho will now be num­ber one and we should all be wor­ried,” Mr Mets­ing said.

The deputy pre­mier also said he was not com­forted by med­i­cal doc­tors’ ex­pla­na­tion that the HIVpreva­lence rate meant Le­sotho was do­ing some­thing right.

“I can tell that all med­i­cal doc­tors or Min­is­ters of Health rea­son the same way when it comes to the HIV preva­lence. UNAIDS African Re­gional Di­rec­tor ‘M’e Sheila Tlou said we shouldn’t get wor­ried by the high preva­lence rate say­ing it means more peo­ple are on treat­ment.

“But I feel like this is just try­ing to put out some fire be­cause if the per­cent­age goes up, it means the num­ber of in­fected peo­ple is in­creas­ing. It is true that more peo­ple are on treat­ment but we don’t want this 25 per­cent. Let us all work hard to re­verse the num­bers.

“It can never be a good thing un­der any cir­cum­stances. What is good is for us to put peo­ple on treat­ment but the per­cent­age must be low and man­age­able.

“We need to work hard to achieve zero in­fec­tions, no dis­crim­i­na­tion and zero Aids-re­lated deaths. Other coun­tries have achieved this and we can also do the same be­cause we are not dif­fer­ent from them.”

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